Communities Scramble to Pay for Blizzard Snow Removal

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SCRANTON -- Communities across northeastern and central Pennsylvania will need to find new ways to plug major holes in their budgets.

The federal government will not pay reimbursements for snow removal after last month's historic blizzard.

State and local governments in nine counties in our area spent $11.5 million in the two days after the March blizzard. That wasn't nearly enough to qualify for federal aid that so many communities were counting on.

The cost of digging out from the blizzard of 2017 busted many municipal budgets. Plymouth spent $40,000 on snow removal.

Restaurant owner Patricia Cincinato fears her borough will hike taxes or cut services.

"I am really worried because a lot of services, they don't already have," said Cincinato.

So why is the federal government saying no to reimbursing communities in our area for snow removal?

The federal formula eliminated nine counties last week because not enough snow fell. The other counties had enough snow, but have just been eliminated because state and local governments did not spend enough on snow removal.

"For us not to be able to get any kind of any emergency reimbursement for the funds that we expended for this kind of disaster does not really make any sense to me," said Wilkes-Barre city administrator Ted Wampole.

Wampole says the city spent $680,000 in the two days following the storm.

"We're left to scramble to find that money, which won't be an easy task."

Lackawanna County commissioners want the state and federal governments to find money to help. They also want the feds to change the rule capping reimbursement to the amount of money spent for just two days of snow removal.

"I don't think this is fair whatsoever. 48 hours could not define what this storm is all about," said Lackawanna County Commissioner Pat O'Malley.

Kingston Mayor Jim Haggerty predicts that during future severe storms, communities will plow but then leave the snow piled on the sides of even the busiest streets.

"Because if you can't count on a reimbursement in the time of the biggest snowstorm we've had in decades, you're going to see communities say, 'We just can't afford to move the snow,'" said Mayor Haggerty.

The problem now is paying for the snow already removed. Without any reimbursement, communities will have to find ways to make up the deficit.

The two most common we found being considered: delays in road repairs, and cuts to summer recreation programs for kids and teens.


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