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Cities, businesses tally big chill’s cost

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Greenwood street department plows push slush from Madison Avenue Thursday. The city spent about $41,000 on plow drivers, mechanics and other street department worker salaries during this week's snow storm. Scott Roberson / Daily Journal
Greenwood street department plows push slush from Madison Avenue Thursday. The city spent about $41,000 on plow drivers, mechanics and other street department worker salaries during this week's snow storm. Scott Roberson / Daily Journal

Now that the temperature is above freezing and city and county roads are no longer covered with ice and snow, local governments and area businesses are counting the costs of the recent winter storm.

The cities of Franklin and Greenwood expect to pay from $21,000 to $70,838 to cover costs including salt, fuel for plows, and salaries and overtime pay for plow drivers and street department workers. The county highway department likely will tabulate the cost of the winter storm within the next few weeks, director Luke Mastin said.

In Greenwood, more than half of the storm’s cost, or about $41,000, comes from paying plow drivers, mechanics and other street department workers their salary as well as overtime pay, Greenwood Mayor Mark Myers said.

Franklin had $8,252 in manpower costs from the storm and paid about $13,000 for salt, Mayor Joe McGuinness said.

Local communities plan for the costs that come with winter weather, including salt and overtime for employees, but officials will need to check their accounts over the next few weeks to see how much money is left, both mayors said.

Whether enough money remains to cover the cost of clearing the streets the rest of the year depends on how many more snowstorms come through this season, they said.

“It just depends on how the rest of the year is going to play out,” Myers said.

Businesses across the county were affected by the storm. Some, such as Benjamin’s Coffeehouse in Franklin and Oaken Barrel Brewing Co. in Greenwood, lost money because they closed for one or two days.

“When you’re a small business, any day (brings) significant income,” Benjamin’s co-owner Ashley Shively said.

But Kellie Plumbing services spent most of this week taking about four times as many calls as usual from customers with frozen drains or water lines. That’s meant longer hours — and also will mean larger paychecks — for the business’s plumbers, president Eric Damon said.

“First time in a long time we’ve had a schedule so booked up that it’s tough to book everything,” he said.

Damon had to wait to respond to customers until after Tuesday, once the county’s travel restrictions had been lifted, but that didn’t stop people from calling for help thawing their water lines. Kellie Plumbing usually receives three to five calls from customers per day, but the average was about 20.

Damon sent his workers to handle any emergency calls first and then scheduled the less-urgent appointments throughout the week. The increase in calls meant some employees were working longer shifts. But the increase in hours makes up for other weeks when the phone isn’t ringing with potential jobs.

“A full week and a little overtime — that means a good paycheck next week,” he said.

Benjamin’s closed Monday and opened late Tuesday because of travel restrictions, which kept most people home. If the coffeehouse had opened, workers would have made a lot of baked goods and other food that likely would have been thrown out because there would have been no customers to buy them, Shively said.

But unexpectedly staying closed for a day could have cost the coffeehouse about $1,200 in sales, Shively said.

In Greenwood, Oaken Barrel Brewing Co. owner Kwang Casey decided to close on Sunday about two hours after opening for business. The decision wasn’t a difficult one — there were about six people in the restaurant, and Casey didn’t want his employees to risk driving to work in snow that was piling up at a rate of an inch per hour.

Oaken Barrel was closed Monday as well, and staying shut down for two days during the week will mean a roughly 15 percent drop in typical weekly revenue. Casey knew he needed to open Tuesday to get his employees and regular customers back into the usual weekly routine and also so he could be there to accept deliveries needed to keep the restaurant running the rest of the week.

At the start of the week, the Oaken Barrel parking lot was plowed, but the area was still difficult to get around, and at one point one of Casey’s employees got a forklift stuck when trying to get around the building moving deliveries. So Casey paid another plow driver about $500 to ensure the parking lot was completely clear of snow and ice.

Despite the loss of income, neither Casey nor Shively is worried that this week’s revenue losses will hurt their businesses. And Casey knows that, as cold and as inconvenient as this week’s storm was, it could have been worse.

“I grew up on the southside,” he said. “I remember the ’78 blizzard. To me, this is nothing.”

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