Winter’s storm costs top $600,000

Snow, ice and winter storms, overtime pay and di-icing compound — the town piled up more than $600,000 in road costs this winter. Almost a third of it came late in the season.

“The total is $619,000,” First Selectman Rudy Marconi said Monday.

“What’s interesting is how much we spent in March,” he said. “Oh my god! Almost $200,000 in March.”

Marconi soon clarified that — the town accumulated just over $215,000 for storm costs last month.

“The first storm in March — March 2 and 3 — alone cost us $35,000,” he said.

Of course, that total winter storm cost of $619,000 for 2017-18 relies on the assumption that the town is finished with snow plowing for this year — that there won’t be another winter storm requiring the road crew’s attention from mid-April to the end of June.

The way things have been going, that’s not a completely safe bet.

The winter’s road expenses are detailed in snowstorm cost and data reports by the Highway Department, the latest updated through April 16.

The $35,000 storm cost Marconi noted was for Friday evening, March 2, to Saturday morning, March 3, so overtime costs were substantial — about $11,230. The crew of worked from 4 p.m. Friday through the night to 5 a.m. Saturday, logging 13 hours of overtime.

The town also piled up $48,590 in costs for a two-day storm when 12 inches of snow fell on Wednesday, March 7, with another 10 inches the next day — Thursday, March 8.

Read to plow

According to the Highway Department report that ranges from early December through early April, the town crew was called out for some 30 weather events that dropped 113 inches of snow and ice, as well as some rain — with occasional flooding and wind also listed as problems.

For most winter storms, 14 or 15 members of the highway crew were out on the roads, as well as three mechanics who drive trucks, one golf course worker, a part-time worker, and seven contractors.

Marconi said Public Works Director Peter Hill also sometimes drives a plow.

There are seven contractors who are sometimes called on to join the town crew in clearing roads.

“These are people that own their own trucks with their own plows,” Marconi said of the contractors.

“They would plow up in The Lakes, areas where the roads are narrow, where you can’t get a big truck through,” Marconi said.

The town’s total expense for contractors was $55,922 for the winter, with each of seven contracted trucks costing roughly $8,000 — from $7,450 to $8,255.

Contractors worked just 10 of the 30 days when winter weather prompted attention to the roads. There were also five occasions on which the town paid out $2,800 to give each of the seven contractors a $400 “ready fee” when they didn’t actually plow.

Ice B’Gone

The town’s biggest single expense shown in the report is Ice B’Gone, the de-icing material the town has been using in recent years rather than the traditional mix of sand and salt.

The town spent $376,650 for some 4,950 tons of Ice B’Gone, according to the report.

“The Ice B’Gone product is running a lot of money,” Marconi said.

Other costs

The total in overtime paid for winter plowing was $186,425, according to the report.

Marconi said there are two sources of money the town uses to cover storm expenses — which, of course, vary year to year with the weather. Some of the money is in the highway department’s budget — but plowing costs aren’t one of those numbers that can be nailed down ahead of time.

“We budget around $400,000 a year,” Marconi said.

Costs that exceed what’s budgeted are paid from the “town aid road” account, which receives an annual state grant carrying a stipulation that it is to be used for road-related purposes.

“That had built up to about a $700,000-plus amount, and we’re still owed — which the state confirmed we will be getting— about $185,000,” Marconi said.

The town aid road account was also tapped to cover some $480,000 of the town’s costs for $680,000 in Schlumberger site work that was recently started. The Schlumberger work is mostly road and parking lot construction, so the state town aid road money may be used for it.

Marconi said he doesn’t anticipate any problem covering the town’s winter storm costs within the 2017-18 budget.

“We have money for this,” he said. “We won’t have to go for an additional appropriation — no, we wouldn’t do that.”