As the snow recedes from Capitol Hill and staffers slip back into a normal work schedule, Congressional officials are calculating the cost of snow removal, overtime shifts and lost productivity.
For most agencies, that cost seems to be minimal. Many employees were able to work from home, and delayed projects can be picked up this week during Congressional recess.
But the onslaught of snow ostensibly ran up a high bill for the Architect of the Capitol and the Capitol Police. Although neither agency was able to provide a concrete number, AOC employees worked at all hours to clear snow from the paths and roads around the Capitol, while the police department provided hotel rooms to some officers for almost a week.
Police spokeswoman Sgt. Kimberly Schneider said the total cost was not yet available but confirmed that the department had to pay overtime, hotel and food costs to ensure that officers were guarding Congressional buildings 24 hours a day. Hotels near Capitol Hill generally cost $100 to $200 a night.
The AOC, however, denied that the cost of removing piles of snow from the campus which included hundreds of employees sometimes working into the night went beyond the agencys current budget.
Our work throughout the two blizzards over the past week is part of our mission-related work to care for the Capitol complex, so it is included in our operating budget, AOC spokeswoman Eva Malecki said in an e-mail.
On Friday, Malecki added that crews were removing large piles of snow a task she said was made easier by the sunshine and above-freezing temperatures. But she did not respond to further questions about where the AOC found the money to pay for snow removal, especially when the agency is facing more than $1 billion in unfinished maintenance work.
Tom Fontana, spokesman for the Capitol Visitor Center, said AOC workers did a really Herculean effort to make sure all the pathways were clear. As snow piled on top of the underground CVC which has skylights on the Capitols East Front workers were able to ensure it never piled too high, he said.
Though closed all week, the CVC opened on Friday. And while some money was lost by closing the gift shops and the cafeteria, the effect was minimal, Fontana said.
Fortunately, its a very slow period for us, averaging only about 2,000 to 3,000 people a day, he said. Senior staff were also able to work at home, he said, ensuring that administrative work could still be done.
Jeff Ventura, spokesman for House Chief Administrative Officer Dan Beard, also said that employees were able to work from home this week. The office, he said, probably spent less than it does on an average week simply because services were so limited as the House came to a standstill.
But some services will take a few days to get back on track. The CAO is faced with a backlog of mail to Congressional offices, for example, and the Houses food supply has dwindled. Cafeterias thus opened for only limited hours, and employees got creative with ingredients in order to offer a few hot and grilled items, breakfast and sandwiches.
Each year since 1990, CQ Roll Call has reviewed the financial disclosures of all 541 senators, representatives and delegates to determine the 50 richest members of Congress. This year's report, derived from forms covering the calendar year 2012, shows it took a net worth of $6.67 million to crack the exclusive club.