Lehigh Valley

Allentown pays contractors $193K for snow storm

The late winter snow storm that hit the Lehigh Valley may be a distant memory for some in the midst of spring, but that wasn't the case Wednesday night in Allentown.
 
City council approved a bill to pay the private contractors the city hired to remove the roughly 13 inches on March 14. The amount was more than $193,000. The money was spent on truck and loader rentals that were used for three days following the storm. That amount does not include expenses incurred by the city's own employees to address the winter weather. That amount was not formally discussed Wednesday night.
 
The city procured the services of private contractors prior to the snowstorm, when forecasters predicted a more dire snowfall amount between 18 and 24 inches. As it turned out, the storm did not produce those amounts. However during questioning from council members Wednesday night, the city's Public Works Director Craig Messinger said Allentown didn't have the luxury to hire the contractors after the snow started or risk the chance they couldn't get anyone. Hence, the contractors were hired based on the higher predictions.
 
If there was a bright spot financially for Allentown, it was the fact the city spent less on this March storm than the massive 32-inch storm that bombarded the region in January 2016. The city doled out about $533,000 on private plows, trucks and drivers. The city was reimbursed for well over $400,000 for those expenses from the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania; however, that will not be the case for the March storm.
 
"We're on the hook," said Brent Hartzell, the city's finance director. "It was a large storm, but not as bad as the year before."
 
When asked by President Ray O'Connell what is the amount of snow required for the state to issue reimbursement, Messigner replied the commonwealth does not release the specific amount, but rather issue the amount based on the number of municipalities that apply.

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