DOH: Winter surplus diverted

CHARLES TOWN —The West Virginia Division of Highways has a good problem on its hands.

The highways office has gone through about 42 percent of its winter budget for snow and ice removal and the winter is 80 percent over. Forty-two percent of the $3.4 million Jefferson County budget is about $1.42 million. Factoring in the remaining 20 percent of winter, some of that $1.42 will be used, but the remaining surplus would be diverted to pothole patching and maintenance, said Lee Thorne, district manager for Hampshire, Jefferson, Morgan, Berkeley, Mineral, Hardy and Grant counties.

The office’s $1.2 million is a far cry from previous years. In March 2011, the district had a little more than $500,000 in its budget. Same at the end of February 2009.

At the end of February 2010, the district was in the red by $1.2 million.

But, said Thorne, that $1.2 million is not exactly a surplus.

“Each year the central office gives us recovery funds to recover from the bad weather,” said Thorne.

Thorne said last year the district received $1.1 million in recovery money.

“We won’t get that this year because of the mild winter,” he said. “We will have to use the money we have left over to repair potholes and do maintenance on the roads.”

Thorne said it costs $300,000 to pave a mile of road.

There are almost 4,000 miles of road in the district. Not all are paved but they still need attention.

“We have been getting a lot of calls about dirt and gravel roads. We try to grade them twice a year,” Thorne said.

DOH spokesperson Brent Walker said he isn’t expecting to escape the winter snow-free, he does expect to have a considerable surplus in the budget.

“The money left will be put toward improving secondary roads,” Walker said.

And surplus money will be spent on salt as well.

Thorne said although the district has used less salt than normal, due to its salt purchasing contract, more salt would have to be purchased and stockpiled.

“Over the next several years if we have mild weather and spend less money on salt, that will become a factor in our budget,” Thorne said.

The annual budget this year for the district is $28.1 million.

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