The Clinton Herald, Clinton, Iowa

November 17, 2012

Cities prepare for winter

By Natalie Conrad
Herald Staff Writer

— Last year the area skipped winter, but city officials are preparing for the inevitable this year.

Local communities benefitted from an abundance of leftover salt from last year and have planned for whatever may occur, even though there is no telling what the blustery season will bring.

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“We have to guesstimate what winter will be like a year before,”  Clinton Finance Director Jessica Kinser said. “Luckily we saved a lot from unused salt from last year.”

The city bought salt for $64,833.49, for fiscal year 2013, and budgeted $100,000 for street maintenance overtime. Total snow removal budget for 2013 is $268,000.

“Our vehicles didn’t have as much wear and tear and we saved on fuel,” Tom Krogman said, who oversees the city’s grounds, facilities and street maintenance.

“Our plows and sanders are ready.”

Nearby Fulton also plays the guessing game in budgeting for unpredictable weather. The city budgeted $4,500 for overtime, but that fund is also a shot in the dark.

“I guess every year and it is almost always enough,” City Administrator Randy Balk said.

Lack of overtime may save the city money, but is disconcerting for maintenance employees.

“It’s nice to not be out plowing every weekend, but the overtime is nice for buying Christmas presents,” public works employee Gary Munson said.

In Fulton, salt is paid for by the Motor Fuel Tax fund. City officials are required to budget 75 to 85 percent of what they need. Currently the salt shed is full from last year. Only $22,750 was budgeted for salt this year compared to $35,000 for last year. Residents enjoy quick and efficient snow removal due to the hard work of public works employees, Public Works Director Dan Clark said.

“The guys love that first snow,” Clark said. “They are a great crew. They don’t like to miss out on anything and are always ready to go.

Camanche budgets $15,000 for snow removal salaries and $45,000 for salt. Last year, they spent $37,000 to replace the salt used the year before.

“We only spent $3,700 for snow removal salaries and we didn’t have to replenish the salt supply,” City Administrator Tom Roth said. “In 2009, we spent $68,000 on snow removal. That’s one extreme to the other.”

Snow removal is paid for by the city’s Road Use tax fund. If the money isn’t spent, or the budget is blown to bits like it was in 2009, the Road Use tax fund gets both the good and the bad. Unspent money remains in the fund to be used another day. At this time, the public works department has stopped accepting yard waste and is switching the trucks from summer use to winter use.

Even with research, predictions and carry-over from last year, nothing tests the communities’ planning like the first taste of winter.

“That first snow tells us if we really are prepared,” Krogman said.