Newton County spent more than $45,000 to clean up the county's major roads during January's winter storm, one of the worst in recent history.
Chairman Kathy Morgan said public works used 70 tons each of sand and small gravel and five to 10 tons of calcium chloride. The materials, combined with vehicle wear and tear, repair and replacement of parts such as motor grader blades, cost about $27,000. In addition, public works employees, working in 12-hour shifts around the clock from Sunday through part of Thursday, logged $18,000 in overtime pay.
Morgan said she was proud of the county's employees, who also spent a significant amount of time transporting doctors, nurses and public safety officials to and from work during the storm. Public safety officers also worked on 24-hour shifts, but that is their normal schedule, so no extra personnel costs were accrued.
Even though the county was shut down, Morgan said about 40 percent of county staff still had to work. Many employees worked from home, while superior court clerk employees called jurors to notify them of closings and landfill employees had to open temporarily to take trash from industrial customers who were still operating and didn't have anywhere to place their trash.
Based on conversations with other counties' leaders, Newton County was better prepared and had a more comprehensive response. Each department followed its individual protocol plans, which worked well, she said.
Morgan said the county is updating its emergency plan to be better prepared should another major storm hit.
She said the county probably should have held a meeting before the storm, and it should have kept some of the public works equipment at various places around the county to quicken response time county-wide. She also said the county will make a list of private contractors who the county could hire to bolster services.
The county discovered that some of its warning sirens did not go off and will work to fix those but also could look into an automated phone system which would provide residents with updates.