Snow removal budget crunch felt in Mass.

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February 22, 2013, 7:43 pm
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(NECN: Josh Brogadir, Fitcburg, Mass.) - It's been a busy few weeks for snow plow drivers, and all of this snow is quickly draining snow removal budgets.

There are piles of sand waiting for the next winter storm in Fitchburg, and officials are hoping it won't deplete the $130,000 left of the city's $800,000 snow budget.

"So that should be enough to get us through the weekend, but any other storms after that, all bets are off," said Fitchburg DPW Commissioner Lenny Laakso.

And speaking of gambling, planning a snow budget is about as predictable as playing the numbers. Well, maybe there's more of a science to it than that, but it's far from exact.

Leominster has $160,000 remaining out of $900,000.

"That won't leave us much, but we do set aside a little of our free cash in the event that we end up spending more than we thought," Leominster Mayor Dean Mazzarella said.

The plus about this third consecutive weekend storm is not as many drivers to contend with on the roads, which allowed Leominster crews to clear the streets and sidewalks faster in the blizzard.

However, the downside is it's bad for the bottom line because overtime squeezes budgets even more on Saturdays and Sundays.

"Yeah, it's kind of a double edged sword," Laakso said.

"There's some good things and bad things, at the end of the day, it's New England and we're right in the middle of it all," Mazzarella said.

Although Fitchburg's 25 truck fleet is obviously not moving on Friday night, it does beg the question: How are the plow drivers getting ready for the storm?

The answer: Getting some rest, most likely because it's expected to be another long weekend of work.

"We had people working 24 hour shifts during the last storm. We let them take a little breather here and there so they're not falling asleep at the wheel, so that's a concern," Laakso said.

We asked the commissioner if he expects them to work those hours in this storm too.

"It sounds like it's going to be a long haul just because of the heavy snow that we're going to have this time, even though the actual snow depth might not be as much," he said.

That slog through the cement will be different than the push through the powder. However, Leominster Mayor Dean Mazzarella knows his city, like others around New England, has no other choice.

"We've had ice storms and floods and hurricanes and microbursts. We've had it all, so we've had a lot of practice," Mayor Mazzarella said.

Fitchburg, like Leominster, has some cash reserves set aside in a special fund in case they go over budget.

Tags: massachusetts, Fitchburg, Josh Brogadir, Central Massachusetts, snow removal , snow removal budgets
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