Less snow removal leads to thousands of dollars in savings

2012's mild winter is a blessing for the City of Kirksville's Public Works Department. The lack of snow has helped the department save thousands of dollars.

Currently, about 600 tons of salt is stacked high enough to fill a 12 ft. tall barn at the back of the Public Work's Department's complex. It, along with snow removal equipment, is sitting idle. If a blizzard doesn't come before spring, it'll be stored and used next snow season.

John Buckwalter, the Director of Kirksville's Public Works Department, said the city budgets to purchase 1,000 tons of salt every calendar year. He said the department purchases the salt on an as needed basis and has only purchased 200 tons since January. In all, the department has 200 more tons of salt than it usually has at the end of a snow season.

"I expect that we will probably use less than half of our budget for chemicals. We budgeted $64,000 for salt, we budgeted money for GeoMelt, and others. Altogether, a little over $80,000. I think we will probably spend less than $40,000 for salt and snow removal and chemicals this year. "

The city is also saving money on overtime, about $24,000 to be exact. According to Buckwalter, the city budgets for about 1,500 overtime hours every year; most of those hours are used during the snow removal season. During the 2010-2011 snow season, 1,172 overtime hours were used amounting to $30,000. For this year's 2011-2012 snow season, so far, 254 overtime hours have been used, amounting to $6,000. Buckwalter said this allows the department to use these overtime hours during the summer for construction projects if needed.

In addition to overtime, let's not forget equipment maintenance costs. For the 2010-2011 snow removal season, Buckwalter said the equipment maintenance cost $136,985. For this year, from November 2011 to February 2012, Buckwalter said the department has spent $20,000. But, it's important to keep in mind that the trucks used to plow snow are also used to haul gravel in the summer. So, plowing less snow means less wear and tear on the vehicles and thus, savings.

One area where Buckwalter projects the city will not save money this winter is fuel costs.

"I don't expect to see a very large windfall in the budget from reduced fuel demands for snow removal. We will indirectly because we won't have to pay for it but as the price of fuel continues to increase, that's going to offset our savings on using less."

Buckwalter said the lack of snow removal has allowed the department to move forward other projects.

"Without major snow operations, we've been able to do other things with those on baseball fields and putting dugouts and do storm drainage repair. Go out and grade roads and other things. So, we've kept everyone busy but it's just been different tasks than we would normally do in February."

Budgeted funds are used from January to December. If the department ends 2012 with thousands of dollars in savings, they will make a recommendation to the Kirksville City Council on how the money will be reallocated; the Kirksville City Council has the ultimate decision on how the extra funds should be used.