Snow removal budgets already overloaded
Officials are desperately seeking emergency money due to high snow-removal costs. December was a cold month for the Midwest and East Coast and a deluge of snow hit the areas relatively unexpectedly. Costs were hefty for snow removal and now officials are scrambling to find funds for future snow removal. For example, Maryland’s State Highway Administration spent $27 million this year on snow removal but the state’s total budget for seasonal snow removal is $26 million. Already a million dollars over budget, officials are worried about how to get through the rest of the winter season. The state’s transportation secretary Beverley Swaim-Stanley said, “The state will make adjustments in other areas of its operating budgets to cover the overage.”
The country’s snow removal plan
Most states are in the same predicament as Maryland. They are already well past their budgeted money for snow removal and it is still January. To manage, some states have already taken drastic measures. For example, Colorado cut back snow removal in rural areas by postponing trucks overnight. This cut back on overtime costs. Analysts estimate that Colorado spends $4.85 to send one snowplow one mile. By cutting back on overnight costs, the state saved a considerable amount of money.
Critics in the state however, are arguing that postponing snow removal makes it more difficult for trucks to clear roads. Senator Greg Brophy said, “It’s a lot more effective to clear away the snow as it falls. Waiting until the morning means the snow has had a chance to freeze…frozen snow is twice as difficult, and takes twice as much energy to break up.”
Politicians and snow removal
Snow removal is an important issue for many voters and politicians know it. They work hard to include a viable snow removal plan in their campaign’s promises, and when that plan doesn’t work, voters remember. Due to its importance many legislators refuse to make large cuts in road clearing policy and normally stretch budgets to complete removal plans. They would rather use emergency money than cut back.
Some room for negotiation
Budgets were already at a shortfall when the recent snowstorm happened and afterwards, states were even deeper in their financial holes. Despite politicians not wanting to cut back, some have been forced to, due to the recession. For example, Colorado announced that it will not call out snow plows until at least six inches of snow has accumulated. In former years they went out after two to four inches. Colorado Springs Mayor Lionel Rivera said the city has cut back the snow-removal work force from 134 trucks, down to just 80. He is currently trying to cut the budget for road clearing during the winter by 17%. He said, “The cross-country skier in me wants the snow, but the mayor in me wants it to be 35 degrees and sunny.”
The importance of snow removal
In the end, snow removal is an important issue. Without a good plan, states are hampered and business is stifled. Though emergency money is often needed for the process, states will find it. Mayor Rivera added, “We will move our budgeted funds around…cutbacks will have to make future snow removal possible.”