SHERIDAN — With an early start to winter and above average snowfall and ice, the city streets department has nearly exhausted its snow removal budget for the year and requested an additional $175,000 from City Council to make it through spring, which typically brings heavier snows.
The Council approved the request, and the funds will be taken from the general fund.
Public Works Director Nic Bateson said the streets department has used nearly $219,000 of its total budgeted $227,000, spending approximately $50,000 per month to plow and remove snow on city streets this past season.
“We budget on an average winter,” Bateson said. “But this has been an above average winter.”
City Engineer Lane Thompson gave an update to the Council before Bateson asked for additional funds.
Thompson started out by reminding Council of snow removal procedures. During a snow event, the city focuses on priority areas like hills, main routes, school routes and the business district. After the snow stops falling, crews spend two to five days plowing and hauling snow away from the downtown corridor followed by priority one and two routes like Main Street, Coffeen Avenue, Loucks Street and Fifth Street.
Snow is then removed from low-lying areas to prevent flooding. Residential areas are divided into four quadrants and plowed on a rotating basis.
Thompson said it costs $7.91 per lane mile downtown to plow and $709.88 per lane mile to plow and haul snow away. On snow routes, it costs $10.57 per lane mile to plow and $825 per lane mile to plow and remove. On average, it costs $67 per hour to apply ice slicer. Figures include the cost of fuel, maintenance and salaries for man hours.
In the most recent snow event, the city spent $22,000 to plow and remove snow from downtown and priority 1 streets.
“The roadblock is hauling snow away,” Thompson said.
Thompson said this year has been particularly tough because winter started early and has had more snow events than normal. Most events have been preceeded by rain followed by heavy snow and then bitter cold spells, wreaking havoc on machinery and requiring more time to clear streets.
Mayor Dave Kinskey asked if it would be possible to plow continuously, at least downtown, through snow events, and Thompson said doing so would likely more than double the current cost of $10,000 per event for downtown snow removal.
Thompson then delineated several ways a higher level of snow removal service could be provided: by getting rid of old, inefficient snow blowers and getting two new two-stage blowers; by filling open positions on the streets crew and adding a new position; by working more with outside contractors to haul snow; and by placing GPS equipment on each truck so workers could be more efficiently dispatched. He said parts have been ordered to convert the city’s sanders from hydraulic to electric.