Budget Buster

Latest Winter Storm’s One Too Many For City’s Snow Removal Allocation

Posted: March 19, 2013

Chris Michaels of Harrisonburg removes the snow from his car before heading out for work Monday morning. While the snowstorm was a relatively minor inconvenience for residents, it dug deeper into the city’s snow removal allocation, costing up to $12,000. (Photos by Nikki Fox / DN-R)
Horses belonging to Old Order Mennonites patiently wait with their buggies on Hinton Road in Rockingham County Monday morning after a night’s snowfall that measured 2.5 inches at the Dale Enterprise Weather Station.
As spring draws near, Sunday night’s snowstorm creates a snowy landscape of farmland seen from Silver Lake Road Monday morning.
HARRISONBURG — A heavy late-winter storm and several near misses have combined to put the city over budget for snow removal. 

By the end of Monday, the minor storm that sprinkled about 2 to 3 inches of snow on the Valley will have cost the city between $11,000 and $12,000, said Ken Knight, the street superintendent of the Harrisonburg Public Works Department.

Between March 5 and March 7, the city spent more than $119,000 on snow removal out of the total $245,000 allocated for the work in the current fiscal budget. The city spent $120,000 of that allocation prior to the early March episode.

“This [year], we had a lot of hits and misses where we still had to call people in,” Knight said. “Then we had the big one that hit us.”

To cover the shortfall, the department will ask City Council for additional funds, which isn’t uncommon.

In the winter of 2009-10, the department went $1 million over its snow removal budget due to heavy back-to-back snow and ice events and consistently cold weather, Knight said.

For the most recent snowfall, which began Sunday evening and continued into the day Monday, a greater portion of the expense came from the cost of materials — particularly salt put down on streets to prevent the snow from sticking — than for manpower.

The same amount of salt is laid down for a 2-inch storm as an 8-inch one, Knight said.

So, at a certain point, the material costs plateau and labor costs continue to increase, which was what happened with the heavy snowfall of two weeks ago, in which crews plowed for two days.

To prepare for Sunday night’s predicted snowfall, city crews were out at 7:30 p.m. to monitor roads, although snow had not yet begun to stick, Knight said.

Crews worked part of Monday to clean up Harrisonburg sidewalks and streets that needed extra attention, said Knight, who lauded the work of department employees.

“They’re very dependable, very hardworking,” he said. “Believe it or not, a lot of them enjoy …  pushing snow.”

Contact Alex Rohr at 574-6293 or arohr@dnronline.com

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