King County cutbacks could spell winter troubles

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by ZAHID ARAB / KING 5 News

KING5.com

Posted on November 16, 2012 at 11:29 PM

Updated Friday, Nov 16 at 11:37 PM

SEATTLE -- Financial issues in King County means areas could see fewer road crews and slower snow and ice cleanup this winter.

If a big storm hits, unincorporated areas will be especially impacted.
Although up to 70 public works employees will be laid off by March, the county says it has enough resources to handle the winter, unless Mother Nature delivers a strong punch.
Mark and Diane Wilson live on Inglewood Hill. A big storm can make roads slick, icy and impossible.
 
“It gets pretty crazy. This plateau has five main roads coming up a very steep grade,” said Mark Wilson, a Sammamish resident.
 
During a normal winter, conditions can get bad. But Cliff Mass, Professor of Atmospheric Sciences at the University of Washington says this will be a neutral one.
 
“The big snow storm, the big flood, the big windstorm, they like these neutral years,” he said.
 
According to Mass, there’s a potential for storms that produce up to two feet of snow.
 
“If it’s going to happen, this is the type of year we typically see it,” said Mass.
 
December 2008 was the last neutral winter. The city came to a standstill as two weeks of snow piled up.
 
“I couldn’t drive up the hill even though I have a vehicle with a set of snow tires and four wheel drive,” said Mark Wilson.
 
With current staffing levels, County Maintenance Superintendent Tony Ledbetter believes crews wouldn’t be able to keep up during a big storm.
 
“It’ll paralyze the community,” said Mark Wilson.
 
Residents, especially on the eastside wouldn’t have their roads plowed as fast. The Wilsons hope it doesn’t come down to that.
 
“We don’t have a crystal ball to know what that weather is going to be. If we have that storm, we can’t have fewer crews,” said Wilson.
 
According to Ledbetter, layoff notices are already out and many are starting to find other jobs. Nine people have left the public works department so far, others are choosing to retire early.

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