Taxpayers count hefty cost through gritted teeth
TAXPAYERS will be hit with a multi-million bill for keeping the country's main roads open to traffic during the three-week big freeze.
Mayo County Council has submitted a bill for €500,000 to the Department of the Environment to offset its extra costs, while Kerry County Council has indicated it will seek €2m.
But it will be at least a week before the country's 32 remaining city and county councils submit their costs, which will include massive overtime bills and invoices for extra rock salt to keep roads open.
The Department of Transport wrote to councils last Wednesday asking them to submit information on costs incurred so far. The bill is expected to be picked up through discretionary grants, which will be allocated in the middle of next month.
It is not yet clear if all costs will be met, or if councils will be expected to meet some of the bill themselves. If they are, it will mean cuts to services.
Last year, the cost of keeping roads open during the winter came to €10.4m but this year's bill will exceed that. This is because an entire season's supply of rock salt -- 50,000 tonnes -- has already been used.
The bill for winter maintenance has risen in recent years, with €5.5m spent over 2007 and almost €7.2m in 2008.
Meanwhile, Transport Minister Noel Dempsey has revealed that he requested extra salt supplies to de-ice roads before he went on holidays.
Severe weather conditions resulted in a shortage in supplies of rock salt. But Mr Dempsey said he had contacted the National Roads Authority two weeks ago after being alerted about the danger of supplies running out.