Delivering Delaware its coldest temperatures since 2010, winter 2014 brought with it several snow storms, ice and plenty of snow days to go around. This three-part series looks back on the unusually long winter season and examines the impact felt by the Milford community and the surrounding areas. Part Three of this series will provide a bird’s eye view of the effects on residents’ everyday lives and will ask the question, how do we prepare for next year?
Statewide spending for storm maintenance is on the precipice of exceeding a record, but on the local level, previous mild winters have allowed local cities like Harrington and Milford to stockpile salt, keeping purchases close to allotted yearly budgets.
With 14 snow storms dumping more than 40 inches of snow on the Harrington and Milford areas this winter, cities are also dealing with thousands in overtime costs, working with crews of only six and five staff members, respectively, that are tasked with treating and plowing streets and clearing sidewalks, roadways and municipal parking lots.
HARRINGTON COSTS AND OVERAGES
Harrington benefited from a donation of salt last year, requiring the city to only spend $1,395 on 22.35 tons of salt, leaving the city under its $2,000 budget for snow removal materials, according to Harrington City Accountant Dean Gary.
While Harrington is under budget with its snow material and equipment purchases, the city is 200 percent over its $5,000 public works overtime budget.
“But we don’t budget overtime as a separate snow removal item,” Gary explained.
With $10,439.10 spent on overtime for Harrington Public Works staff, the $5,439.10 overage will have to come from Harrington’s general fund reserves, Gary said.
MILFORD COSTS AND OVERAGES
Milford’s snow budget, which is set at $20,000 annually, is now $4,017 over budget with a $3,017 purchase of salt for sidewalks made this March.
“We’ve spent all of that and then some,” said Public Works Director Brad Dennehy. “Obviously it was a large increase from last year, but I think we’re still within our department budgets.”
Compared to the $21,000 spent on 300 tons of road salt this year, Milford only bought 89 tons of salt last winter for $6,060 to treat roads and stockpile for a harsher winter, according to Milford Finance Director Jeff Portmann.
Milford’s salt barn, which is 60-foot-by-40-foot in height and width and 30 feet tall was filled to the brim at the beginning of this winter, and is now nearly depleted, Dennehy said.
“It took three years of mild winters to fill it up,” Dennehy said.
The overages in salt purchases will be supplemented by moving funds from other line items within the street maintenance budget, transferring funds originally allotted for contract services or road materials, Dennehy said. Those transfers will have to be voted on by Milford City Council.
But Dennehy said without the support of other departments, like water and electric, and those staff members chipping in on long days for streets crews, that Milford wouldn’t have been able to tackle all the work during more than a dozen snow storms with only five staff members.
“We try to use as few people as we can with keeping overtime down,” Dennehy said. “We’re very conscious of how much overtime is getting used, fuel costs, salt purchases, but we have to keep the city operational. Our guys work long hours, but we don’t have a large employee [base]. We’re lucky we have adaptable employees.”
Milford needed 300 tons of salt to treat 40 miles of roadways and sidewalks, but some main roads in Milford, like U.S. Route 113 and Business Del. Route 1 are actually handled by the state.
In comparison, DelDOT purchased 99,862 tons of salt this year, at a cost of $6,491,053.40, to treat 89 percent of the state’s 13,731 miles of roads.
While both Milford and Harrington have exceeded budgets due to this year’s winter weather, the costs associated with the 14 snow storms that accumulated more than 40 inches in these locations pale in comparison to the amounts spent during the last major snow storm of 2010, which required FEMA response in southern Delaware.
Harrington spent a total of $11,200 on outside contractors, salt and overtime for the last large snowstorm in winter 2009-2010, Gary said.
According to Milford Finance Director Jeff Portmann, Milford spent $61,756 in 2010 on contractors to collect snow from the downtown area, $53,174 in overtime and $11,198 in fuel, a portion of which was reimbursed through FEMA.