WALLINGFORD - Not unlike most municipalities in New England, snow has been plentiful while Wallingford's snow removal budget is not. It's nothing new, though. Shift money from this line item to that one. As long as the town's budget balances, it's all good.
Henry McCully, the Director of Public Works for Wallingford says, in his 20 years at the helm, about half the time his snow removal budget was done well before Old Man Winter was. And, the parade of storms has reminded him of a particular song from yesteryear.
"The Mamas and the Papas Monday, Monday," said McCully. "We get severe storms every Monday, it seems." Wallingford's annual snow removal budget sits at just over $600,000, for expenses including overtime, salt and other supplies.
"Right now, we're a little under a third left on our overtime and 90% expended on salt and supplies," said McCully, who has been part of the town's DPW for 32 years. Over those three decades, McCully says the cost to treat the roads has sky rocketed.
"We used to buy sand for $14 a yard (just over a ton) and mix it with salt, and now we buy a treated salt at $84 a ton," said McCully.
Like many cities and towns, Wallingford's DPW trucks spread a magnesium chloride that looks like sand, smells like molasses and, before it is delivered to customers, is sprayed with a liquid compound that is actually a byproduct of vodka.
"It's regular rock salt that's treated with a sugar base product called Magic Salt, which was discovered in Hungary by a scientist, who worked in a distillery, where they distilled vodka," said McCully.
The Magic Salt, while the subject of great scrutiny because of its corrosive properties, saves municipalities considerable money. Not only does it melt to much lower temperatures than any of its predecessors, but this salt significantly reduces the amount of street sweeping required in the spring.
One of the things that depletes snow removal budgets rapidly are storms that require crews to be on the roads on either Sundays or holidays, when road crews are required to be paid double time.
More snow is in the forecast for this Thursday, which is a scheduled holiday for Wallingford town employees.