Wednesday's snowstorm will push the city’s plowing costs past the $780,000 budgeted for the entire winter, officials said.
Public Works Director Walter Veselka said he figures the city will wind up about $300,000 short by the time the last snowflakes vanish in the spring breeze.
Though the amount of snow this winter has been normal, he said, many of the storms have fallen on holidays and weekends, when plow operators earn overtime or even double time.
The fiscal situation would be even worse were it not for the changeover this year from the old salt and sand mix to a new treated salt that has proven more effective and cheaper, Veselka said.
“It’s worked very well putting out less material,” Veselka said.
Mayor Art Ward has repeatedly said this winter that residents are happy with the snow removal efforts. He praised public works crews that have put in long hours to battle some difficult storms.
The city will have to dip into its reserves to pay the extra plowing costs, finance officials said.. That makes it tougher to end the fiscal year in the black.
Veselka said an advantage of the new treated salt material is that spring street cleaning should go much faster because there is so much less sand on the roads. It also makes cleaning out catch basins quicker, he said.
This may be the last winter the city uses sand routinely during the winter.
It is using treated salt throughout the city for the first round of putting material down on roads, but once the trucks have used it up in the Chippens Hill and west Bristol areas, old stores of sand and salt are tapped.
Veselka said that beginning next winter, the sand won’t be used. The old material that’s likely to be left over, he said, will be given out to residents.
What makes the new technology particularly nice for the city is that it can no longer mine its own sand. Its permit is running out so if it wanted to keep using sand it would need to buy it or try to get the permit renewed, which might not happen.
Veselka said that public works uses the treated salt on the streets before the snow falls – or at least before it gets packed down – because that works best.
For example, he said Tuesday, he plans to start putting out the treated salt at about 2 a.m. tonight on the busiest roads and by 6 a.m. on side streets in order to make sure it’s on the pavement by the time there’s much snow there.
It is much more effective that way, Veselka said.
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