King County: Only 10 percent of roads to see snow plows in winter

SEATTLE -- Better stock up on the rock salt - and maybe make friends with your neighbor.

That's the word from King County officials, who now say they won't have enough money to plow 90 percent of the roads this winter in unincorporated areas.

"Out here it's like we don't matter. And I think that's the way a lot of us feel," said Bill Normand, a Woodinville resident for more than 20 years. "We're kind of beyond that scope, if you will, of what's important, so we end up being some of the last ones when it comes to getting help."

Normand lives off of 188th Pl. NE, a residential street near busy Woodinville-Duvall and Avondale Roads. The latter will see plows when the snow falls; the former will not.

"Money is definitely the problem and money isn't the solution for this winter," said Brenda Bauer, director of the King County Road Services Division. "We've been talking with the legislature. This is just the reality of a dramatic decline in a legacy-broken tax system."

Bauer said a "trifecta" of issues contributed to the county's dramatic drop in the snow budget, the primary of which is a more than 40 percent decline in property taxes in the past four years.

"We've concentrated urban areas. It also means seeing the tax rich areas, getting them annexed into cities," Bauer said. "The other area is the gas tax. People are driving less because of the recession."

The result is that Milt Heim, Woodinville resident of more than 30 years, may see a repeat of what plagued his street in the December snowstorm of 2008.

"It was so snowy. You couldn't get out. You couldn't drive," Heim remembered. "I don't like that. We need it. We have to get out, go to work, go to the store, whenever we have to."

Bauer said the county wanted to get the word out so that residents could prepare in advance: stock medication, food, and water, in case they get snowed in this winter. She said it also means it may be tougher for utility crews - such as power and heating trucks - to get around this winter.

The county has released a map showing which roads will see snow plows and which ones won't.

"As long as the main roads are plowed to where people can get to the store, get to the hospital, can get to their doctor, I'm happy with that," said Larry King, who said in the 2008 storm that his daughter helped neighbors shovel out. "When it really gets difficult for people to get around, people pull together and they help each other out."