The cost of snow removal and cleanup is something all governments must figure into their budgets.
Figuring out the economic effect of the recent winter weather on governments within central Kent County is, in some instances, like predicting the weather itself. Given Delaware’s climate, some snow always can be expected, but you have to wait until the storm is over to find out how much there was and how severe the impact will be.
In Dover, for example, the city budgeted $8,000 in its Fiscal Year 2013-2014 spending plan to purchase sand and salt for the streets department.
But with 40.5 inches of snow falling on Dover streets and sidewalks, as measured by Delaware Environmental Observing System monitors between Dec. 8 and March 25, the city had to spend 2.5 times as much money as allocated in the FY 2013-2014 budget just to buy enough salt and sand to keep streets passable, according to figures provided by city spokeswoman Kay Dietz-Sass
As is to be expected, the Capital City has the largest expenditures in the county when it comes to snow removal. Plowing and salting some of the city’s roadways is the responsibility of Dover’s streets division, working out of the Department of Public Works and, if needed, hired contractors. Major roadways, such as Route 8 and Route 13, are the responsibility of the Delaware Department of Transportation.
Preparation for snow events includes scheduled reviews of the city’s snow removal plan and stocking up on salt and sand, Sass said, as well as equipping city trucks with plow blades and, at a designated point in time, moving from standard eight-hour shifts to 12-hour workdays.
In all, just this season, the city of Dover has used 350 tons of salt and sand on its roadways, Sass said, and even that was stretching the available supply. Ultimately, the city went $12,500 over budget in buying sand and salt, she said.
“Whenever we go over the amount we budget for salt and sand, one of two things happens,” said City Manager Scott Koenig. “We either move the money from other line items in our general fund, or we allow that account to override.
“When we have to do that, we try to move money into the account at the end of the year. We have vacant positions where we can find some savings.”
Sass estimates city workers used 15,222 hours overtime, at a cost of $380,321.84. The city does not budget for overtime related to weather-related events, but rather budgets for overtime use for the entire year.
Camden and Wyoming
Some of Kent County’s small towns also found themselves dealing with this season’s snow troubles.
The town of Camden budgeted $12,500 for snow emergencies this year, including laying in a stock of sand and salt, said Town Manager L. Aaron Chaffinch. Of that, approximately $2,160 is left, he said.
Camden’s public works director accrued 31.5 hours of overtime, the only town employee to do so; the town’s public works department also gets an assist from an outside vendor as needed, Chaffinch said.
“We are fairly fortunate because during these times our snow removal seems to go very smoothly and we receive favorable comments from many of our residents,” Chaffinch said.
“I guess you could say, if it isn’t broke, don’t fix it.”
In Wyoming, the town sets aside money for snow removal, but if the work is too much for the single town employee charged with clearing out the area around Town Hall, Mayor Dale Rife’s husband has been known to pick up a snow shovel to help.
The town doesn’t have a designated area to store the salt that’s spread around the combined Town Hall and police station, so it keeps approximately a ton on hand at the nearby Witt Brothers Market, Rife said.
The town has paid out $386.24 for the 17 overtime hours worked during the recent snow storms, and spent $1,038.55 for salt, she said.
Since the county has no responsibilities when it comes to clearing roads, its outlay for salt and other road-clearing materials was minimal, according to County Administrator Michael Petit de Mange.
“Our role was kind of limited to maintaining the facilities here at the administrative complex,” Petit de Mange said, adding county crews also are responsible for the EMS facility at Wheatley Station near Smyrna.
As part of the county’s lease agreement with the state, DelDOT crews are tasked with clearing parking lots at the 911 Emergency Center on Public Safety Boulevard; town crews at the Harrington Fire Company are charged with snow clearance at the county’s paramedic facility in that town’s fire house, he added.
“The staff at our county parks will do the snow clearing when the parks are ready to open,” Petit de Mange said. “They’ve got equipment there that they can use to take care of that.”
In all, Kent County Levy Court had 20 50-pound bags of rock salt and an equal supply of ice melt on hand at a cost of $700, he said. Supplies of both were short, and the county ran out of rock salt to spread on asphalt surfaces.
“We’re going to order another pallet of each,” Petit de Mange said. “Hopefully we’re out of the woods with cold weather, but you never know.”
BY THE NUMBERS
Dover Hours Worked: 15,222
Dover Overtime Cost: $380,321.84
Camden Hours Worked: 31.5
Camden Overtime Cost: $1,131.89
Wyoming Hours Worked: 17
Wyoming Overtime Cost: $386.24
Kent Co. Hours Worked: 74.75
Kent Co. Overtime Cost: $8,644.30**
State Hours Worked: 109,804
State Overtime Cost: $3,310,590.63
*** - Kent County employees can choose between taking overtime pay or compensatory time; they accrued 1,653 hours comp time this season
- Source: DelDOT; city of Dover; Kent County Levy Court; town of Camden; town of Wyoming