Local officials discuss snow removal budgets

By Melanie Savage - Staff Writer
Region - posted Mon., Feb. 10, 2014
The Hebron area got about 8 inches of snow during the second storm in a week on Feb. 5. Photos by Melanie Savage.
The Hebron area got about 8 inches of snow during the second storm in a week on Feb. 5. Photos by Melanie Savage.

Mother Nature dumped significant amounts of snow on the area twice within a matter of days recently. Monday, Feb. 3, brought several inches to the area, necessitating morning delays for many area schools. A storm that developed during the overnight on Feb. 4 caused most school districts to cancel classes the night before. A heavy snowfall that fell through the night necessitated overnight work for plow operators and resulted in a total of about eight inches of cover over most of the region. With another snowfall predicted for the weekend (a storm that eventually amounted to no more than a dusting), local officials were assessing the adequacy of snow removal budgets.

Lebanon Director of Public Works Brandon Handfield said, “We’re getting close on material.” The town had already used up a large portion of allotted sand and salt and might be forced to purchase more, depending upon the weather in the weeks going forward. Handfield hadn’t had the opportunity yet to run the labor numbers after the Feb. 4 snowfall, but noted that previous storms had required a lot of overnight and weekend work. “It’s possible that we’re reaching the limits for our labor numbers as well,” said Handfield. The procedure in this case, he said, would be to appear before the town’s Board of Finance.

As of Feb. 6, Hebron Finance Director Elaine Griffin did not have definitive numbers yet, but said that “yesterday’s storm will have definitely depleted our overtime budget, and our winter material expense will be very close if not depleted as well.” Thinking about the expected weekend storm, she said,  “No, we will not have sufficient funds to cover additional overtime and material needs in our allotted expense lines. Procedurally in the past, a supplemental appropriation is taken from our Unassigned Fund Balance to cover these expenses, but that decision is finalized by the Boards of Selectmen and Finance,” said Griffin.

Columbia Director of Public Works George Murphy said, “Currently our budget is on track for this year. We budget annually for up to 15 storms for both employee overtime and budgetary funding to purchase enough salt and sand.” However, he said, in cases where the town exceeds funding for snow removal, “we would be required to seek funding from our town’s contingency fund.”

Franklin First Selectman Rich Matters said that the town was currently over budget for materials, but not for labor. “We’ve got a stockpile, so hopefully it’ll last through the end of the year,” said Matters. “It’s these little nuisance storms that are killing us, because you’ve only got a couple of inches, but you’ve still got to be out there spreading the material.”

Andover First Selectman Bob Burbank said that the Public Works crew has handled all problems this season without an real issues. However, "At this point we have expended all funds for sand and salt," said Burbank. "We have a stock pile for several more storms. If we expend all funds and run over budget this would be an emergency, but all services will continue." Burbank said that budget adjustments are done at the end of the year.

As of press time, there was a storm predicted for Thursday, Feb. 13, with the potential to dump an additional 4 to 8 inches of snow on the area.

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