The need for snowplows, sand and salt on city and county roads this winter was much less than in years past, which meant a significant savings in snow removal costs.
Greg Koch, Fort Dodge public works director, said his department saved on equipment, manpower and money with less time spent on snow removal.
"We budgeted around $155,000 for snow removal for 2011-2012," said Koch. "We bought $100,000 worth of salt in October not knowing what the winter would bring."
-Messenger photo by Hans Madsen
Janet Wagner drops off a couple of bags of leaves she recently raked up at the City of Fort Dodge Yard Waste site. Due to the early spring weather and a mild winter, the facility opened on March 19, several weeks early.
With less snowfall than most winters, around $45,000 of that $100,000 salt budget remains, Koch said.
"There was a 9-inch snowstorm predicted in late February. We looked at that and knew that if we got it we would probably have needed to order more salt to get us through March," Koch said.
Less snow and ice also meant sand became less of a necessity on city streets this winter.
"For sand, we budgeted about $15,000, but we have only spent about $2,000 of that," said Koch.
With plows rarely needing to be on the roads between the months of November and March, Koch said he expects to see some savings in vehicle maintenance costs too.
"I'd anticipate a savings in maintenance," he said. "But that doesn't mean our vehicles haven't been in use. There are other things we have been able to do, so they have needed some maintenance."
Koch said his department only spent about half of its budgeted fuel money for the season.
'We're definitely looking at a cost savings in fuel," he said. "Our last report showed we still have around $13,000 of our $26,000 fuel budget."
With few early mornings and late nights spent moving snow for public works employees, Koch said very little was spent on overtime.
"We're definitely not spending what we would have on overtime," he said.
At the county level, Webster County Engineer Randy Will said it has only spent about half of the budgeted $500,000 in winter expenses.
"Our snow and ice control budget is $500,000 for labor, materials and overtime," Will said. "Through the end of February we had spent $122,000."
Will said county maintenance staff made 16 or 17 runs this winter to keep roads clear of ice and snow.
Webster County starts the winter with a full storage facility of sand and salt, but even with mild weather, the supply will need to be replenished.
"We did use some material this winter, and that will have to be restocked," said Will.
When there is little snow to be cleared, Will said the county uses the labor elsewhere.
"When we have a favorable winter, we are able to spend it doing other things," he said. "We did around $50,000 to $60,000 in brush cutting, tile work and replaced a culvert."
City maintenance employees also spent part of the winter doing other projects, such as filling potholes and some road maintenance.
"We didn't do anything major," said Koch. "You don't want to start any major construction or street repairs because the weather can change in a heartbeat and we don't want to find ourselves in a situation where we start a project, get snow and are left with something that could cause traffic concerns."
Will said the county has benefited from the savings.
"I can safely say we will saving around $250,000 in expenditures," said Will. "But what we can do with that money is positive. We can use it as reserve, buy equipment, replace a bridge. We were able to purchase two trucks and a wheel loader, and we hadn't bought any trucks since 2009. Light winters can help you catch up on purchases."
Contact Emilie Nelson at (5150 573-2141 or firstname.lastname@example.org