Public Works officials are expected to ask the town funding bodies for an approximately $198,000 special appropriation to cover higher-than-anticipated costs following a series of winter storms in March.
Though there’s no such thing as a single standalone “snow removal budget,” in the winter there are normally just two accounts that get hit for overtime, according to Public Works Director Tiger Mann: outside contractors, some of whom help plow parking lots or remove snow from the downtown, and road maintenance, which includes salt and deicing liquid.
“This year, unfortunately, because of the nature of the storms, we actually are having problems with other accounts in other departments,” Mann told members of the Board of Selectmen at their regular meeting on March 27.
He referred to spending such as in the Parks Department, Transfer Station, Tree Warden and Sewer Department, whose pump stations the town had to man due to widespread power outages.
Overages of $24,000 and $7,000 for the Transfer Station and Sewer Department, respectively, can be covered with funds from other accounts, Mann said, but the total from the Highway Department, Parks Department and tree service come to $298,000. That figure can come down to $100,000 by transferring out funds from an open salary line item in the administration budget—a position that can be held open until July 1, the start of next fiscal year—“so that will bring the overall request to $198,000 to cover not only the storms but then work proceeding for the rest of the year,” Mann said at the meeting, held in Town Hall.
The update to the selectmen was strictly informational, as Mann will need formal approval for the special appropriation request next from the Board of Finance.
First Selectman Kevin Moynihan said, “The lesson here is for our budgeting.”
“We have been sort of following a history of not budgeting adequately for snow removal, and related costs with winter storms, and we also have a very slim contingency, which puts us in the position of having to go to the Board of Finance for a special appropriation more than we should be going for it,” he said.
Mann noted that, by statute, the tree warden must have funds available to remove trees deemed hazardous.
“We are looking at needing some additional monies for our overtime, not only to make up the difference that we have had in the storms but looking forward, we are going to try and limit our overtime for the next three months and cut operations here and there to try and save some of the money,” he said.
Selectman Nick Williams said that a look at historical figures showed that spending in the winters can be sporadic.
Mann said: “It’s a moving target.” Some storms that see three inches of snowfall may cause significant problems with drifting, whereas other times the forecast may call for far more snow than the town actually gets.
“Each storm is different and they vary,” Mann said “This past one we had men waiting to go off for work. The snow totals were not there but we could not send them home because the weather forecasters were saying, it’s coming, it’s coming, it’s coming. Eventually it came late at night but it wasn’t as great as we anticipated. Those are things that we cannot control.”