Minimal plowing and salting equating to cost savings

By Derrick Knutson—

By this time last year, Minnesota motorists were routinely slip slidin’ away on icy roads across the state, if they could get out on the roads at all amid the snow storms.

The city of North Branch had to dispatch its public works crew 34 times last winter to plow snow or disperse salt on the city’s roadways.

“The city budgeted $60,000 for snow (and ice) removal last winter, and at the end of the winter there was $60.97 left,” North Branch Public Works Director Shawn Williams said.

So far this winter, the roads have stayed relatively free of snow and ice – the city has sent public works out only three times to plow or salt local thoroughfares, City Administrator Bridgitte Konrad said – and that’s equating to quite the cost savings.

“We’ve saved about $20,000 so far this snow season,” Konrad said. “At this time last year we’d already had about 20 snow or ice events.”

Williams noted each winter month the city doesn’t have to send crews out for snow and ice removal it saves about $10,000.

He added that starting in November last year up until mid January, the city had spread 554 tons of salt on its roads.

So far this year: 190 tons.

East Central Minnesota could still get pounded by loads of snow in the remaining winter months, but even if that’s the case, North Branch should have leftover funds in the coffer.

“(The money) will stay within our general fund this year,” Konrad said. “At the end of the year if there is still money left in the budget, the city can determine how to use it.”

Chisago County Public Works Director/County Engineer Joe Triplett’s comments about snow and ice removal echoed those of Williams.

“We have spent about $40,000 less in overtime costs in November and December of 2011 than in November and December of 2010, and (we) have used about 11 percent of the salt over that period,” he said. “We were over budget for the 2010-2011 season.”

Other projects getting done

Just because there hasn’t been much snow or ice this winter, that doesn’t mean public works employees have just been sitting around twiddling their thumbs.

Williams said the mild weather has allowed public works to address numerous projects that otherwise might have been neglected if snowstorms were more prevalent.

“We’ve been getting a lot of right-of-way brushing done … street sign replacement, road grating and we’ve been dealing with corrosion issues at the wastewater plant,” Williams said.

Williams added public works employees have also been fixing city trucks, resurfacing the city’s two ice rinks on a regular basis, cleaning grills and painting picnic tables in city parks. The department also recently re-insulated the warming house at the ice rink near the intersection of Highway 95 and Grand Avenue.

Triplett said his crew has been able to perform similar projects, such as mowing, road patching, shop and equipment maintenance and brush clearing along roadsides.

The next project for North Branch public works will be cleaning up deadfall at Harder Park.

“We’ve been very busy,” Williams said.

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