Snow removal depletes roads budget

Published 9:59 pm Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Road slush: A man runs through slush along the road in the Sleepy Lake neighborhood on Monday. Employees from Suffolk’s Department of Public Works have been hard at work clearing roads around the city since more than a foot of snow fell across the area on Sunday.

The city spent 10 percent of its miscellaneous road maintenance budget on expenses related to this weekend’s snow.

By preliminary totals, the Public Works department racked up about $320,000, including $110,000 for salt and sand, $100,000 to replace worn equipment and $55,000 in labor costs, Public Works Director Eric Nielsen said.

“Things are going pretty well,” Nielsen said.

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The miscellaneous road maintenance line item in Nielsen’s budget covers not only snow removal but also “pretty much everything related to maintaining a road” — including repaving of residential streets, guardrails that need to be replaced and potholes, yet another expense Nielsen anticipates from the latest storm.

“Last year when we got a big snow, a lot of those popped up a couple weeks later,” Nielsen said.

Of the $3.5 million miscellaneous budget, Nielsen said about half was spent July through October in doing roadway overlays.

“Then we wait to see what the winter’s going to bring,” he said.

After the threat of snow and ice storms is over in the spring, Nielsen said, the city invests the rest of the money in needed projects.

The city also has a “bridge account,” where money unspent in previous years was held over for roadway emergencies. Nielsen did not know the exact total of that account, but he said, “It’s a comfortable amount.”

He added there is a slight possibility of getting reimbursement for the snow removal through the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

“It would be nice to get some of that back,” Nielsen said.

Nielsen said that since the city took over maintenance of its roads from the Virginia Department of Transportation in 2010, this is only the second or third significant snow event.

“We prefer not to have another event anytime soon,” he added.