Storms taking toll on budgets

Snow falls on downtown Naugatuck Feb. 3. This winter has been particularly tough on the sand and salt budgets of municipalities. –LUKE MARSHALL

Snow falls on downtown Naugatuck Feb. 3. This winter has been particularly tough on the sand and salt budgets of municipalities. –LUKE MARSHALL

Budgets for sand and salt are being stretched thin as winter drags on.

Prospect Mayor Robert Chatfield said, as of Monday, the town has purchased approximately 600 tons of salt.

“Last year, until the blizzard [on Feb. 9], we only used 200 tons of salt,” Chatfield said.

The town, which is responsible for 60 miles of roads, originally budgeted $44,000 for salt and $45,000 for sand.

Chatfield said the town buys all of its sand in June and has spent approximately $36,000 on salt this winter.

“We’re ready for whatever is coming,” Chatfield said.

Naugatuck Public Works Director James Stewart said, as of Friday, the borough had spent approximately $160,000 on salt and sand. It budgeted $125,000.

“What’s been going on is we’ve been seeing a number of storms. There has been a lot of icing in the mornings,” Stewart said. “Every time there is an event we have to treat the town’s roads.”

Stewart said the roads need to be treated every four to five hours throughout the day, depending on the type of event. He said the department has been using funds from other areas in its budget to cover the extra expense.

The Beacon Falls Board of Selectmen and Board of Finance both unanimously approved in separate special meetings Feb. 6 to transfer $19,000 from contingency to snow removal material to carry the town through the rest of the winter season.

That amount of money will be used to buy 220 tons of salt product, Beacon Falls First Selectman Christopher Bielik said. The town only had about 140 tons left, he said.

Bielik said the town started the fiscal year with $60,000 budgeted for snow removal materials and before the transfer it was down to less than $6,000.

“We don’t see that being necessary at the time, but we’ll be monitoring it very closely. As we get towards the end of February and the beginning of March, and hopefully towards the end of the winter, we’ll be reviewing it weekly to see where we are at if these storms keep coming the way they are,” Bielik said.

Bielik said the town can only transfer $20,000 to a specific line in the budget before getting public approval. This means that if the town needs any more funds for sand and salt it will have to hold a public hearing and public meeting to transfer the money.

Bielik said even though the town has the money, there can still be problems with obtaining the sand and salt.

“It’s not even a question of having the money in hand to be able to purchase it; it’s getting a supplier to be able to deliver. We’ve been working with O&G, who has helped us over a short-term crunch that we’ve had. In contacting our own regular supplier they were saying probably a week to 10 days from the time we placed the most recent order until they’ll be able to fill it,” Bielik said.

Bielik said one of the problems facing municipalities has been the snow storms have mostly been smaller and because of the prolonged freezing temperature there has been a lot more ice.

“Big storms are actually easier in a lot of ways because, when you’re out there continuously plowing to keep up with the snow, you’re not using the same amount of product you would when you have smaller snows or ice type storms where you don’t want to put a blade on the road because that will defeat the purpose of putting the product down to begin with,” Bielik said.

Stewart echoed Bielik’s comments, saying that when the roads become icy, a lot of salt and sand is used.

“Icing uses the same amount of salt as 6 inches of snow,” Stewart said.

The other problem municipalities have faced is the sheer number of storms.

“It’s simply been a question of volume,” Bielik said. “It seems like we’ve been out at least once a week, and sometimes multiple times a week, since the start of December. You have to stay up with the storm as it’s happening because if you get behind then you can’t play catch up.”

Even though this winter has been rough on municipalities, Chatfield is looking on the bright side. He said the storms will make for good stories in the summer.

“This will give us something to talk about on the Fourth of July,” Chatfield said.

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