Bud­gets in the snow

Towns man­ag­ing to keep heads above the drifts

The Compass - - FRONT PAGE - BY BILL BOW­MAN

Towns in Con­cep­tion Bay North have been man­ag­ing to re­main within their snow­clear­ing bud­gets thus far this year, de­spite the heavy and con­sis­tent snow­falls since the mid­dle of Jan­uary.

But that could change if the white stuff keeps com­ing in large quan­ti­ties, and most mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties are hop­ing for a break in the weather sooner rather than later.

The av­er­age snow­fall for the month of Fe­bru­ary is 67 cen­time­tres. But by Feb. 14, some 90 cm had blanketed the re­gion,

Pub­lic works crews in Bay Roberts have spent more time clear­ing snow in Fe­bru­ary than they did dur­ing the en­tire win­ter of 200910, said Nigel Black, the town’s chief ad­min­is­tra­tive of­fi­cer.

But he said it’s still too early in the sea­son to say how Fe­bru­ary’s snow­fall will af­fect the town’s over­all snow­clear­ing bud­get for fis­cal 2011.

No ques­tion Fe­bru­ary has been the “ busiest month for snow re­moval,” Black said.

Bay Roberts has bud­geted $100,600 for snow clear­ing this year. “ That’s the labour com­po­nent,” Black ex­plained, adding, “equip­ment is lumped in with gen­eral pub­lic works costs.”

The town also bud­gets ap­prox­i­mately $25,000 for sand and salt.

As for ex­tra labour costs, the chief ad­min­is­tra­tive of­fi­cer pointed out, “all the guys (work crews) are work­ing whether it’s snow­ing or not snow­ing.”

Point­ing out the bud­get is for all of fis­cal 2011, Black says, “we’re just barely into it — only two months into it and it’s too early at this stage...” to say how it’s go­ing to im­pact the over­all snow­clear­ing bud­get.

Even af­ter this win­ter is over, Black noted they still have the months of Novem­ber and De­cem­ber to con­sider in the 2011 fis­cal year.

Enough al­ready!

In Har­bour Grace, Lester For­ward has his fin­gers crossed for a break in the snow­fall.

“ There’s only so much (snow) you can push back with a plow,” the town man­ager noted, be­fore you have to bring in other heavy equip­ment like large front-end load­ers to re­move it to widen streets.

The town hasn’t quite reached that stage yet, but they’re get­ting there.

“ So far we haven’t got­ten into an overtime sit­u­a­tion,” For­ward said. He ex­plained snow­clear­ing crews work on a straight time ba­sis for their first 40 hours. Af­ter that it’s time-and-a half for overtime hours worked.”

Al­though a lot of snow has ac­cu­mu­lated since the be­gin­ning of Fe­bru­ary, For­ward said the town is on bud­get so far this year.

“ In fact we may even be a shade down in costs.”

Left over from last year

The town man­ager noted they came out of last year with about $ 25,000 left over in the snow­clear­ing bud­get.

For­ward said the town has bud­geted $176,000 for snow­clear­ing out of a $2.5 mil­lion bud­get this year. That cov­ers ev­ery­thing in­clud­ing wages, all ex­penses, fuel, re­pairs, sand and salt.

For­ward said the sin­gle largest ex­pense in the snow­clear­ing bud­get is wages, which ac­counts for $80,000, al­most half of the to­tal snow­clear­ing bud­get. He said wages and fuel are the two largest ex­penses in the snow­clear­ing bud­get. When the snow piles up and heavy equip­ment has to be brought in to re­move it, “we go through fuel like you wouldn’t be­lieve.”

But For­ward noted snow­clear­ing is one ser­vice towns do not have a choice in pro­vid­ing, even when it means hav­ing to ex­ceed their bud­gets.

“ You have to pro­vide the best ser­vice you can with the re­sources you got,” he said.

Car­bon­ear is do­ing “pretty good” so far this year with the money it has ear­marked for snow- clear­ing, ac­cord­ing to­town ad­min­is­tra­torCyn­thia Davis.

She ex­plained the town bugets for five months of snow­clear­ing — Jan­uary, Fe­bru­ary and March; Novem­ber and De­cem­ber. Af­ter the first two months, the town would ex­pect to have spent ap­prox­i­mately 40 per cent of the bud­get. But Davis es­ti­mates ex­pen­di­tures at un­der 30 per cent of the 2011 snow­clear­ing bud­get by the mid­dle of Fe­bru­ary, de­spite the heav­ier than nor­mal snow­fall this month.

She said this year the town bud­geted $321,500 for snow­clear­ing out of a to­tal op­er­at­ing bud­get of $5.4 mil­lion. Some $75,000 of that goes to­wards sand and salt, which is pur-

chased from the prov­ince.

Hold­ing the line

In Vic­to­ria, town clerk Sharon Snooks says her town is still well within its snow­clear­ing bud­get for 2011.

The town bud­geted $35,000 this year for sup­plies such as sand and salt — equip­ment is in­cluded with gen­eral pub­lic works ex­penses. And they’ve only spent about a quar­ter of that so far. “So we’re well within our bud­get.”

Un­less it keeps snow­ing from now un­til May, Snooks said she ex­pects the town will be able to re­main within bud­get.

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