The District's response to record-setting snowfall has set D.C. taxpayers back nearly $400,000 for cheeseburgers, fries and hotel rooms alone.
The December blizzard earned a presidential disaster declaration, and the response to February's back-to-back storms also might net federal assistance. But the snow response price tag includes some costs the District will likely never recoup.
The city, largely the D.C. Department of Transportation, shelled out $73,380 between Feb. 5 and 15 for McDonald's gift cards. Taxpayers also footed nearly $300,000 in room charges at a half dozen D.C. hotels. Courtyard by Marriott netted $115,045 from three storms, the Capitol Skyline nearly $83,000 and the Channel Inn more than $10,000.
“It's not like they're at the Four Seasons,” said Ward 1 D.C. Councilman Jim Graham, who has oversight of DDOT. “It was just a place, after a 12 hour shift, for them to get some rest. That's the way it was presented to me.”
The District distributes McDonald's gift cards to its snow team, said DDOT spokesman John Lisle. DDOT and the Department of Public Works had about 750 employees working 12 hour-shifts. The $73,000-plus breaks down to 12,230 $6 value meals, 69,225 cheeseburgers, or 18,350 Big Macs.
DDOT, on Feb. 10, dropped another $13,937 at Panera Bread.
On the healthier side, perhaps: The Unified Communications Center, Feb. 5 and 9, spent $1,012 at Giant.
The District budgeted $6.2 million for snow removal this fiscal year, which started Oct. 1, and broke that figure before the first February storm. Mayor Adrian Fenty has yet to put a price tag on the response, but purchase card and purchase order data — for the large and incidental transactions — suggest a staggering tally.
Citywide purchase orders for snow removal and snow equipment maintenance total $7.66 million since December. Salt and ice melting chemicals ran another $1.7 million, and tree removal and pruning an additional $2.7 million. And those figures do not include D.C. employee overtime, which will run in the millions, the imminent “Potholepalooza” pothole repair initiative, or the tab to replenish supplies.
As the snow fell, D.C. agencies charged for area hardware stores. Home Depot was the main beneficiary, at $23,650 — 20 times what the District spent at locally owned Brookland True Value.
“It would be nice if they came to Brookland hardware or an independently owned hardware store but I can't make them come here,” said owner Howard Politzer. “It's like a blessing when the government comes in and buys stuff.”
Snowmageddon hotel stays
» Courtyard by Marriott: $115,045
» Capitol Skyline: $82,621
» Fairfield Inn and Suites: $40,062
» Holiday Inn Express: $30,559
» Washington Hilton: $19,313
» Channel Inn: $11,221