The blades were down for the first time Wednesday as snowplows cleared local roads that had become a slushy mess with a mix of snow and rain. Even with some overnight work, township road budgets are unlikely to be taxed to round out the year, the result of a very mild November.
Barring some horrendous weather between now and Jan. 1, the snow-clearing budgets in both Woolwich and Wellesley should be in much better shape than last year at this time, when winter hit early and often.
In 2008, Woolwich blew past its budget by some $100,000 because of the rough winter that heaped record amounts of snow on the region, said manager of engineering Rod Kruger.
Those kinds of ups and downs in demand for snow clearing is why municipalities base their budgets on a rolling average – five years in Woolwich, 10 in Wellesley – that allows for the reserves to be filled during light years and drawn on during heavy winters.
“Some years you win, some years you lose,” said Kruger.
Typically,Woolwich allocates some $548,000 each year for snow clearing; included in that budget is $70,000 for sidewalks alone.
Given that a single Sunday snowstorm last year cost the township $26,000, that budget can easily be exceeded under the right – or wrong – conditions. The municipality spends approximately $210 per hour to run each of its eight vehicles, and during a storm like the ones we saw last year, all of those vehicles may have had to operate simultaneously.
In Woolwich, the snow budget runs for the calendar year. Currently, about $100,000 remains for 2009, and Kruger is optimistic that amount will carry them to the new year.
“Generally speaking, it’s hard to predict but we don’t usually get the major storms before January,” he explained. “We prepare for the major weather hits in January and February.”
In Wellesley, public works director Will McLaughlin said his budget is doing “better than OK.”
“We didn’t plow at all this March so we are in good shape. In comparison to March 2007 when we plowed for 29 days, this year has been fine for us.”
No matter the budget situation, residents of both townships need not worry about the snow going uncleared.
“We wouldn’t stop the service for budget reasons. In the past we have looked to reserves to tide us over if necessary. I think as long as things don’t get too exciting over the next few weeks, we should be fine,” said Kruger.