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Martinsville Bulletin, Inc.
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204 Broad Street
Martinsville, Virginia 24115
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Snow removal costs stretch local budgets

Friday, February 5, 2010

The two snowstorms this winter have forced the city to work - and pay - overtime.

City officials say a big part of the snow removal cost this winter is due to both storms falling during the weekend, which means overtime rates must be paid to workers.

Last Friday, workers began at 7 p.m. and worked 12-hour shifts until Sunday, said city Public Works Director Leon Towarnicki. Over the weekend, employees were clearing snow around the clock, and every hour they worked was overtime, he said.

Towarnicki said $20,000 was budgeted for overtime payment for the July 1, 2009, to June 30, 2010, fiscal year. But by the end of December, $24,000 had been spent on overtime, he said.

About $16,000 of those costs were spent during December's snow storm, Towarnicki said.

In the 48 hours after Friday's storm began, $9,130 was spent on overtime, said Bob Phillips, emergency management coordinator for Martinsville, but overtime work has continued into the week.

Towarnicki said he estimates that a total of $15,000 will be spent on overtime for Friday's storm after all snow removal is complete. That means that the city will have spent about twice as much as the budgeted amount on overtime, and there are several months left in this fiscal year, he said.

"Overtime is one of the biggest costs for snow removal," said City Manager Clarence Monday.

Lisa Hughes, resident engineer with the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT), said the cost of overtime workers also was a burden on Henry and Patrick County's snow removal budgets. The budget for winter snow removal during the 2009-2010 fiscal year was $1,080,000. As of Jan. 31, $831,350 of that budget had been spent.

"The recent storm will more than likely put us over budget," said Hughes.

The cost of overtime workers, more equipment and a longer cleanup time due to cold temperatures that kept roads frozen will add to the cost of the recent storm removal. However, she said the total cost and its effect on the budget cannot be determined because cleanup still is going on. By next week more specific amounts for this storm's clean up cost should be available, she said.

VDOT spokeswoman Heidi Underwood said VDOT's Salem District, which includes Henry and Patrick counties, spent $5.4 million of the $7.2 million budgeted for snow removal as of Jan. 26. The figures for the most recent storm spending are not yet available, she said.

"It's hard to say if we have spent more than the $2 milllion left in the budget on this snowstorm until we are done with all the snow removal, because the cost of cleaning up each storm is different," Underwood said.

Towarnicki also said the total cost of Friday's storm cannot be determined yet because work still is being done. However, in the 48 hours after the storm began Friday night, a total of $46,104 was spent on overtime and equipment, he said.

Towarnicki also said that the budgeted amount for snow removal cannot be determined, because the funds are taken out of a materials budget and an equipment budget, which are used for items year-round in addition to snow removal. In about a week he estimates that the budgeted amount for snow removal and the actual amount spent so far this winter will be available.

Sand and salt are purchased from money in the material budget, which also is used for items such as concrete, stone and paving materials, Towarnicki said.

This winter, the city spent a total of $2,200 on salt, which costs $79.45, Phillips said. Sand is cheaper, at $6.50 per ton, and he said the city has spent around $60 on it this winter. Sand and salt are bought in bulk each year, he said.

Equipment costs include the extra fuel costs, wear and tear on vehicles, and other supplies such as sand, salt, blades and chains, said Towarnicki. Several sets of chains on each vehicle are used, and a blade or two generally are worn out on the plow, he said.

Once the city figures out if they have gone over budget for snow removal, they will decide where to make adjustments in the budget, Towarnicki said. While exact adjustments cannot yet be determined, he said the only area there is considerable flexibility in the budget is with paving.

The budget for paving city streets is likely where the adjustment will come from, Towarnicki said. However, it is possible that there will be savings somewhere else in the budget that can help offset the extra snow removal costs this year.


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