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Area racking up costs in tough winter

December 26, 2008
By KERRY McAVOY / The Leader-Herald

With several significant snowfalls in rapid succession, local department of public works officials have been putting in long hours clearing streets throughout the area.

Johnstown Mayor Sarah Slingerland said a few weeks ago that one snow-removal trip around the city costs $4,300 - $2,500 for manpower and $1,800 for salt and sand.

Gloversville Mayor Tim Hughes said snow removal in the city has been troublesome because of the back-to-back snowstorms.

Article Photos

The Leader-Herald/Bill Trojan

New York State Department of Transportation workers use heavy equipment to remove a snowbank at the intersection of 30A and Saratoga Boulevard in Gloversville Dec. 16.

"If it stops snowing, we'll be doing better," Hughes said.

Hughes said the city tries to schedule snow removal so working are on straight time.

Gloversville should be in good shape financially in the snow removal department despite rising costs of everything from salt to fuel this year Hughes said.

Johnstown Town Highway Department Superintendent Theodore Bradt said his men worked about 20 hours of overtime since Friday, clearing two days of heavy snow.

"The guys have been working a lot of hours getting it cleared up," he said.

Mayfield Highway Superintendent Melvin Dopp said his town also has been putting in a great deal of overtime to ensure the roads are clear and safe.

"The snow has been coming fast, so we are out on the roads," Dopp said.

At the same time, the department is trying to keep everything at a minimum to watch costs and are trying to balance keeping things safe with keeping costs from getting too high.

One way the department is doing this is by watching the amount of salt that is being put on the roads. He said there is a formula for how much should be used, and the department is carefully sticking to that amount.

Florida Town Highway Superintendent William Weller said his department ended the last fiscal year with about a $35,000 deficit due to high fuel costs. The funds had to come from the maintenance budget,

However, Weller said the department is not cutting back this winter because safety comes first.

Weller said the last few weeks plowing has gone well, but the removal of all that snow has been costly.

"For the last two weeks, each man has had 43 hours of overtime," Weller said. "[Monday] we worked about 16 hours and [Tuesday] we had about 12."

Earlier this year, many local municipalities, including the city and town of Johnstown, got the hit of a road salt shortage that occurred nationwide.

Bradt said that is not the case this year, and despite rising costs the department is well on track to be in good financial shape at the end of this year.

Dopp said he has been keeping up with the salt orders to ensure there is enough in stock when the next storm hits.

The city also reminded residents not to shovel or snowblow into city streets. It is against the law for residents to push their snow into the streets since it is a danger to people driving. This snow and ice also can cause mechanical problems for the DPW snowplows.

The Montgomery County Sheriff's Deputies also will give tickets to people who plow snow onto and across highways.

Bradt said people pushing snow into the roads is a big problem and a nuisance. He said many of his workers come in to report clearing a street only to pass by a few hours later to see snow in the streets.

Dopp said there also have been people doing this same thing in his town. He recently received a letter from the Fulton County Sheriff's Office telling them this is illegal and giving a copy of the law.

Bradt also had some suggestions for people who are driving and encounter a plow.

"If you see a snowplow, please slow down and try to move over some," he said. "Many people think these big trucks can just slide over, but they can't."

Dopp and Weller both said drivers in this weather should slow when the weather gets bad, and don't try to pass a plow.

"I tell my men that if a driver passes you while you're in the plow and you see them later in a ditch, just smile and wave," Weller joked.

The city of Gloversville has a nighttime parking ban in effect from Nov. 30 to March 31. Vehicles need to be off city streets from the hours of 11 p.m. to 6 a.m. Any vehicle parked illegally on city streets and inhibiting snow removal may be towed at the owner's expense.

Officers said they have been giving tickets to people who park on city streets.

The city of Johnstown also has been handing out parking tickets to those who don't obey the rules.

Officer Jamie Allen said since the ban went into effect Dec. 1 the office has given out about 39 parking tickets to people who have parked their cars on city road between the hours of midnight and 6 a.m.

Dopp said there hasn't been much of a problem with parked cars getting in the way of snow removal in the town.

Allen said the police will tow cars if they are impeding snowplows, and several have been towed so far this winter.

Hughes said he has received complaints from residents who are unhappy with the plowing. He said with winter weather coming later the last few years many people have gotten use to driving on clear roads.

"It's still winter and roads aren't always clear. It's kind of a reality check." he said. "We are constantly trying to make it clear as fast as possible."

Kerry McAvoy covers Montgomery County. She can be reached at



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