As storms pile up, plowing budgets are shrinking

8:28 PM, Feb 21, 2014   |    comments
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SCARBOROUGH, Maine (NEWS CENTER) -- This winter's harsh weather has caused costs for overtime, wear and tear on equipment, and salt and sand to treat the roads to balloon, breaking the winter operations budgets of municipalities large and small.

The Maine Department of Transportation spends an average of $15.7 million to remove snow from roads and highways across the state each winter.  This year, with a week left in February, the state has already spent $25.4 million.

While the state will not run out of money to take care of the roads, the cost overruns do have to be made up somewhere, so other regular maintenance, like trimming trees along side roadways, replacing old culverts and faded signs will most likely be delayed this spring.

"We still have to plow.  We still have to make sure the roads are safe.  We still have to pick up the trash," explained Mike Shaw, director of the Scarborough Public Works Department.  "I budget for a pretty robust winter, and we're getting a robust winter, and we are going to use all the budget and probably a little bit more."

Shaw says they've been able to keep overtime, fuel and repair costs in check, but his salt budget has ballooned with each passing storm.

"The types of storms we've had, with a lot of icing and that sort of thing, have taken a toll on the salt budget," said Shaw.  "We are over expended on the salt budget.  Typically, I budget about 50 to 60 thousand dollars a year, we're right around $85,000 expended on salt."

While many people think private plow guys are making out like bandits, most have contracts for the season and are not paid per storm, hurting their bottom lines as well.

"People think that, 'wow they are working 70 hours a week', but it is the opposite, the budgets are really feeling it," stated Aaron Cieslak, operations manager for Coastal Landscape, Construction and Snow Services.  "If we get four five winters in a row like this, it is not going to be good."


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