We live at the base of the beautiful Bighorn Mountains, where the outdoor activities are plenty and the scenery will take your breath away. But residing in Northeast Wyoming means being prepared for cold, burdensome winters — winters that bring freezing temperatures for days at a time, along with snow.
Lots of snow.
It doesn’t take long for locals or passersby to realize the roads in Sheridan and Sheridan County aren’t great when snow begins to fall. Many side roads seemingly get neglected altogether, while the main roads remain somewhat hazardous as well.
Why is this?
Through Jan. 25, 45.5 inches of snow had fallen in Sheridan. According to Sperling’s Best Places, Sheridan receives an average of 71 inches of snow per year. Taking those statistics into account, that means about 64 percent of the average snowfall in Sheridan had fallen by Jan. 25. The city allocated $378,000 for snow removal this year and on Jan. 25 had used about $202,000 — approximately 53 percent of its total snow removal budget.
So with 64 percent of the average snow already fallen, Sheridan used only 53 percent of its budget.
So that begs the question, why do the roads remain in subpar condition?
The city says manpower and money pose the two biggest hurdles. Currently, money isn’t being utilized at the rate it could be for snow removal. To be fair, officials have to weigh how much to spend early on at risk of going over budget, as happened last year.
Manpower represents the other issue. Sheridan County employs seven people to clear 530 miles of roadway. That gives each employee a little over 75 miles of roadway to address when snow falls. This doesn’t add in some of those members falling ill and missing a few days, either.
Both the city and county agree that budgets have limited the effectiveness of snow removal. Ultimately, there is only so much more these operations can do with less.
As the Wyoming Legislature considers how it will manage the state’s budget going forward, snow removal in Sheridan illustrates the costs of balancing budgets through cuts alone. No one wants to pay more taxes but the city, county and state have to decide which services are essential and find ways to keep them funded. This means finding new sources of revenue that, yes, could include taxes. But, as the roads in Sheridan prove, budget cuts can take us down a slippery slope.