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“Report: D.C. spent $41M on Winter Storm Jonas”

by Prince Of Petworth January 11, 2017 at 10:10 am 30 Comments

pain-for-sale

From an email:

“D.C. Spent $41 Million in Emergency Contingency Funds Responding to Winter Storm Jonas, and Could Have Saved Money Through Negotiation and Improved Management of Retainer Contracts,” from the Office of the D.C. Auditor.

The report’s major findings include that the District:

· Paid contractors differing amounts for the same services, including evidence that contractors charged D.C. substantially higher than normal rates for emergency snow removal services with no evidence that D.C. employees sought to negotiate better prices.

· Paid at least $93,000 in credit card surcharges as a result of using purchase cards for payments, despite a policy against paying such fees.

· Violated federal procurement law by allowing agencies to purchase subsistence, including $145,193 on food and $521,857 on hotels and lodging.

· Could have saved money through better management of its retainer contracts.”

  • stacksp

    Man, I really need to get a pickup truck and put a plow on it and salt dog on the back and get in the snow business. Good side money….

  • Michael Pierce

    Does anyone else think that this is just the tip of the iceberg?

    • Anony

      +100

  • MadMax

    I bet the Russians would have done it for much less.

  • RyanD

    Am I possibly reading that correctly? Boston, MA, a city with about the same area (86 sq miles) and much more snow, pays under $22.5 mil A YEAR for snow removal. How are we possibly spending double that for a single storm?
    .
    https://www.boston.com/news/business/2014/11/13/why-bostons-snow-removal-budget-so-often-comes-up-short

    • RyanD

      Admittedly, it was a big storm and unexpected hazards cost a lot more.

      • JohnH

        Here’s the thing – it wasn’t the first big storm recently. When you get caught off guard for the first time, ok. But you should have plans in place. How DC government doesn’t have plans in place for large snowstorms – that may not happen annually but have happened at least on a semi-regular basis over the past 10 years – is beyond me. We should have just spent $20 million on new equipment, even if its not all used every year.

      • TBD

        From the Washington Post article ‘also anon’ posted below
        “In 2010, when the city faced a series of storms that some called “Snowmaggedon,” the city spent $25 million, or nearly half as much to remove more than twice as much snow.”

        • JohnH

          I think part of it is if I recall, Bowser was under heat for NOT acting on a previous snow/ice incident. So they probably overreacted.

          • Blithe

            +1

          • anon

            Correct, and the previous incident was the one that didn’t have very much accumulation but caused a lot of headaches. Not only did they overreact to it last January they still are. When they predicted an inch or less of snow last Thursday they went into full panic mode, and coated the roadways with so much treatment that even though it turned out not to snow very much at all it looked like it did because all the streets were snow white with ice melt.

      • TJ

        Nah, the city hired a bunch of yahoos to load snow in trucks and haul it off. On my block they were shoveling under and around cars, did a lot of damage, and managed to move the snow just a day before things warmed up. Huge waste.

    • Elkhaert

      Because they spend that 22.5 million every year. We don’t. We don’t maintain the snow removal equipment, we don’t have contracts in place well ahead of time, and we don’t train crews in how to do the work. When we have a light winter, it ends up not mattering. But when we are hit with a historic storm like Jonas, it comes back to bite us.
      .
      I am not really sure what the right answer is though, as if we spent money to maintain the services even when we don’t need them, people would be up in arms then too.

      • RyanD

        I thought that was much closer to our usual costs, but I was mistaken. Carry on. “The District government spent $55 million on snow removal from one storm in January — more than it cost to get rid of snow in the past seven years combined.”
        .
        https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/dc-politics/dc-spent-record-amount-on-snow-removal-prompting-emergency-actions-to-pay-creditors/2016/05/03/48b04986-10b2-11e6-81b4-581a5c4c42df_story.html?utm_term=.aac087e3137a

      • flieswithhoney

        I think it’s safe to say that fraud and the improper awarding of contracts to the mayor’s friends (cue deja vu) contributed substantially to the high costs.

        • Commentator

          Bingo (from WaPo article):

          “Also, some of the companies that received the most generous compensation are developers or city contractors who have contributed heavily to the mayor’s past campaigns, as well as a political action committee her backers set up and later abandoned.”

      • Tsar of Truxton

        We have had enough big storms over the years that we should maintain our own large fleet. Sure, they will collect dust some years, but the cost is justified every 2-3 years. Aside from the actual cost of snow removal, there is a huge cost to the region when the government and businesses are forced to shutdown, etc. because we can’t remove snow in an efficient manner.

    • also anon
  • ThatisCrazy

    Wow- compare this with what a truly snowy city like Boston spends on snow removal for an entire winter- http://www.boston.com/news/local-news/2015/02/18/boston-to-set-record-for-most-dollars-spent-on-snow-removal

  • elbeech

    The price for not just forcing people to stay off the roads (and also gross mismanagement)? $41 million

  • Rasputin

    If the tax base of DC ever shrinks, so the near-unlimited firehose of cash dries up, DC will have no bloody clue how to function.
    Spending double what a larger, snowier city spends in a whole year on a single storm is dreadful. They spent a good year’s salary on credit card surcharges for a single storm? WTF? Heads should be rolling, but this will be forgotten tomorrow.

    • Leeran

      Yup. Depressing.

  • anon

    How?? I live downtown and my street wasn’t even cleared.

    • Anonymous

      I live in NW, next to the park on an outlying street that rarely gets plowed during a storm. After this particular storm, my street and the surrounding streets were inundated with bobcats, front loaders and dump trucks, working throughout the night. During the day, swarms of workers were shoveling snow from between cars for the bobcats to move (much like when they do the fall leaf cleanup). On Mt Pleasant St, there was a line of front loaders and dump trucks, apparently waiting for instructions. The degree of snow removal, while appreciated, was completely unnecessary.
      .
      At the time, my neighbors and I watched in stunned amazement, wondering what this was gonna cost. Now we know.

  • Michael

    Bowser and her cronies should be in prison. It was apparent after Snowzilla that the city was intentionally overspending, and at the time I was posting on Popville urging a reporter to look into what was almost certainly cronyism. It was difficult to drive in DC for a week after the storm because hundreds of dump trucks with Connecticut license plates were driving around for no reason, even though it was 60+ degrees out so all of the snow was melting. On several other occasions Bowser has deployed hundreds of salt trucks when the forecast clearly called for 40 degree weather and rain, I’m guessing also because the spending was going to large donors. Combined with the bribes Bowser got caught taking from Exelon to approve the Pepco merger and the ongoing bribery from developers, there should be more than enough to put her away. At the very least we need to throw the crooks out in the next election.

  • Scott H

    When did it become appropriate to start referring to winter storms by the marketing names that the Weather Channel designates them with? Only hurricanes get real names. Everything else is just marketing from some cable channel. Why is an official office of the DC government using marketing language from a cable channel? Winter storms have dates. Use them. I’m disgusted every time I see someone who doesn’t work for the Weather Channel using their “names” as if they were real things, and not just advertising.

  • andy2

    Remember this when you vote in 2018 for DC Mayor.

  • Anony

    The mayor deploys 220 trucks (paid regardless) when there is a forecast of a possible dusting last week. Not surprised one bit.

  • Tim

    DC “insider donation” favorite Fort Meyer got the bulk of the contracts to clean up after that storm. And it was a simple “cost plus” arrangement which is a staggeringly poor way to manage costs.

    I know you don’t know exactly when storms are going to be, but every halfway decently managed jurisdiction in the nation enters into SLA’s or yearly contracts that lay out the cost, response time etc in the event there are things like this.

    As it turned out, DC was paying trucking companies located north of NYC to drive down here and plow streets in the aftermath.

    Think about that for a second…the money was so good that companies were bypassing NYC and coming to DC to plow snow.

    DC’s failure to manage its money or make the most basic municipal preparations isn’t new. It just gets more egregious by the year.

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