Despite only one major storm, snow removal budgets are in peril

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HAMDEN -- Snow budgets are quickly melting in municipalities across the state.

Many remember when Hamden was hammered with 40 inches of snow in a blizzard five years ago, which caused 11 of the town's 15 plows to become stranded on streets. Last week's blizzard was nowhere near as impactful, but Hamden's snow removal budget drain is once again wide open.

According to Hamden's Director of Public Works, Craig Cesare, what has hurt communities statewide, including Hamden, is the fact that most of the December snowfall that fell did so on the weekends, which quickly depletes what was budgeted for labor because weekend work equals overtime pay. Then, after last week's blizzard, followed by frigid temperatures, then a rising mercury, municipalities are still having to deal with overtime issues, even though that storm hit nearly a week ago.

"We always battle this time of year with the freezing and refreezing," said Cesare, who added that every day, their trucks are loaded with sand because "every night that’s (melting and refreezing) a possibility with us this time of year."

As an example, Cesare said that Monday night, the day temps crept toward freezing for the first time in two weeks, "we held crew over from 3:30 till 9 o’clock last night cleaning up. That was about a $9,000 expense."

Hamden's snow removal budget for the winter of 2017-2018 was just over $400,000. Ceasare says that, after he submits his payroll, for last week’s blizzard, all of his budget will be exhausted. Any additional snow removal will be paid for by dipping into the town’s $1 million contingency fund, which, Cesare says, is available not just for the Public Works Department.

In West Haven, they budgeted $300,000 for road materials purchases, meaning sand and treated salt. Currently, almost two thirds of that money has been spent, according to Luis Esposito, the Acting Director of Public Works.

New Haven's snow removal budget was $675,000. There is still just over $400,000 remaining, according to Mark DeCola, the CFO for he New Haven Department of Public Works.