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02-03-2010 @ 19:34:20
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Cutbacks likely to slow snow removal
By Judy Keen, USA TODAY
The wait for a snowplow will be longer in some communities this winter as tight budgets, layoffs and high salt prices force cuts in snow removal services.
To save money, Colorado Springs won't plow residential streets unless at least 6 inches of snow falls, says Saleem Khattak, city street division manager. The city used to plow residential areas after every snowfall.
"This economic downturn is really taking a toll on all sorts of services," he says.
Layoffs cut his staff from 131 to 120 this year and 18 more applied for voluntary departures, Khattak says, so street cleaners and other city drivers are being trained to operate snowplows. The city urges homeowner associations to hire their own plowing contractors and might ask schools to clear streets along snow routes, Khattak says.
Sheboygan, Wis. Fewer drivers are available because the city Public Works Department lost 21 employees through layoffs and attrition in the past 18 months, says deputy public works director David Biebel. "In a normal winter operation, the streets would be cleared in 6-8 hours," he says. "It may take us 10-12 or 12-14 hours this winter."
Greg Schnell, Sheboygan County highway commissioner, cut back on mowing and litter cleanup to conserve money for the snow season.
Northbridge, Mass. Richard Sasseville, public works director, says he'll probably be behind the wheel of a snowplow himself this winter. His department, which includes sewer and wastewater treatment plant workers, totals 14 down four from five years ago.
He'll hire about 15 private contractors to help, but worries he'll exceed his $75,000 snow removal budget. Last year he spent $425,000.
Washtenaw County, Mich. Crews on overtime won't be dispatched to subdivision streets or unpaved roads this winter until 4 inches of snow accumulates or there's an ice storm or blowing and drifting, operations director Jim Harmon says. He expects to pay 40% more for salt than last winter.
Silver Lake, Ohio. The village will hire someone to plow the driveways and clear sidewalks for about 19 senior citizens who have signed up this winter, but the program was eliminated from the 2010-11 budget, says Terry Spohn, clerk/treasurer. Savings: $5,000.
Peoria, Ill. Salt will be applied only to intersections, hilly streets and near hospitals and schools, says public works director David Barber. He paid $35 for a ton of salt two years ago, $47 last year and $55 this year.
However, some states plan to increase spending. The Virginia Department of Transportation says it increased snow-removal funding by about $4 million.
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