What doesn't come down can save tax money, or allow more work to get done
Sunday, February 12, 2012
Despite this weekend's snowfall, the up to now mild winter weather has been a boon for Tri-County Area municipalities as salt and anti skid stockpiles are being used slower than last year and pot hole filling, usually a spring job, has begun in some areas. Some municipalites will even be able to use leftover ant skid in summer maintenance projects while others say even though January through March may be milder it is no guarantee that October through November will be so it all averages out.
City of DuBois
"Obviously with this weather, we are doing a lot better than last year at this time," DuBois City Manager John "Herm" Suplizio said. "We still have a stockpile of salt, even though there were a few bad days."
"This mild weather is a plus for the city's budget," he said.
Suplizio said the city is not going through as much salt and anti skid as it went through last year.
"Since we went to a split shift system three years ago, our overtime costs have been significantly reduced," Sandy Township Manager Dick Castonguay said. "Monday through Friday we have road maintenance and mechanic personnel on duty from 4 a.m. until 8 p.m. We do use overtime for weekends and this year that has been necessary only a few times."
"With regard to material, we are under contract with COSTARS to purchase a specific number of tons of salt and I anticipate that this year we will only have to purchase the minimum required amount," Castonguay said. "The anti skid we also use for chip seals and other construction projects so our summer maintenance projects will hopefully begin with a greater amount of material in storage," he said.
While the winter has been warmer with less snow and little ice, borough Manager Laurie Wayne said the conditions won't really save the borough much money.
As the salt and anti-skid materials are bid through the COSTARS program, the borough is committed to near the same tonnage every year.
Wayne said with the program, the borough's contract runs from August to August. When the borough signs up it can commit to 80 percent of the regular tonnage it purchases or up to 120 percent.
"It's all kind of a gamble," Wayne said.
With the general flow of weather being snow coming down and rain washing away the salt, reapplication has had to occur, requiring more salt usage than one might expect.
She said it is difficult to project how much the borough has potentially saved. While January, February and March are looking good, no one knows what October, November and December will bring.
In Brookville, the warmer winter temperatures are also saving the borough money.
Bob Receski, borough street superintendent, said the borough is currently spending well below the amount of money it used last winter.
"We are probably 40 percent below a year ago," he said.
Receski said the costs include overtime, maintenance and rock salt usage. However, he also cautioned that there are six more weeks of winter left to be concerned about.
As February begins, Clarion Borough has noticed the effects of the mild winter temperatures.
"So far we've been very fortunate," Tom Thompson, public works foreman, said. "We are way ahead this winter than we were last. We are way down on salt usage."
He also mentioned that the vehicles are experiencing less "wear and tear" as a result of the lack of snow and ice. He also said less borough employees have worked overtime to manage the streets and sidewalks from the winter conditions.
"It's a great cost savings for the borough," Thompson said.
He warned that there are at least two more months of winter remaining that could affect the borough's snow removal expenses.
Linda LaVan, administrative zoning secretary/assistant borough secretary, said rock salt has not been a major concern because the borough has not had to order salt "in awhile," because of the borough's large stock piles of it.
City of St. Marys
According to St. Marys Street Superintendent Steve Samick, this winter the snow plows were called out seven times. There were four times when overtime was necessary for a total of 313 man hours of overtime. The city has used 250 tons of salt and 750 tons of antiskid material so far.
Since the crews aren't spending as much time plowing snow this winter they have been working to fill potholes, St. Marys City Manager Dave Greene said.
St. Marys has budgeted $42,000 for overtime for 2012, Greene said. The winter season includes January through March as well as November and December this year, so the city is only at the beginning of its season. He said in November and December last year the city spent $2,616 in overtime and in January and February it has already spent $9,200.
Although there hasn't been a lot of snow to be plowed, Greene said the crew has been out putting down salt and anti-skid material because of black ice.
As far as purchasing the salt and anti-skid material, Greene said the city has to purchase at least 60 percent of the materials it needs as a result of the contract it has with the state. He said whatever is not used will be kept until it is needed.
Borough operations Manager Leslie Stott said salt and antiskid usage has been much lower than in previous years. "We've been called out a couple of times and worked an eight-hour shift last Saturday for our one and only significant storm." Stott said the crew has been catching up on some small-scale storm sewer construction work. The crew has also added insulation to the garage and made other repairs to help bring down energy bills. "I am optimistic that this weather will alleviate some stress from the budget," Stott said. "However, I believe that winter may still be coming and I speculate that any left-over funds will be spent on storm sewer work. The water table is awfully high and we are receiving several concerns regarding storm water."
Borough Secretary Autumn Norris said the borough has been seeing some great savings on overtime costs, but cautioned that the winter wasn't over yet. Road crew foreman Alan "Tuffy" Stevans said so far, the borough has only used three-quarters of one of its storage bins of salt and half the amount of its antiskid. Stevens said Curwensville has only had one snow event that required overtime.
"We've been working on road signs, replacing ones that have been broken off or turned the wrong way, patching holes, things like that which need to be done," Stevens said. "We've been cleaning and repairing the trucks and equipment. They've been keeping pretty busy."
From December 2010 to January 2011, the township spent $4,424 in overtime for road crew workers and $39,585 in road materials (salt/antiskid). From December 2011 through January 2012 the township has spent $3,695 in overtime and $27,847 in road materials. While there has been some savings because of the light winter, it's not a lot. Supervisor and road master Bill Lawhead said the crews have been busy doing maintenance to the township's buildings and maintenance on the equipment. The crews have also been doing some road repairs, ditch work and tree trimming. "Even though it's a light winter, small snowfalls have turned the roads icy and they must be treated," Lawhead said. "Small snows can actually be more of a problem than a 6, or 8 or 10 inch snow because the roads will ice up more quickly. Remember, this is only January and we still have February and March to deal with, plus this budget also includes November and December of 2012."
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Reported by Dena Bosak, Katie Weidenboerner; Kim Finnigan, JoAnn Seltzer and Brandi Stretavski.
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