Expenditures Continue to Pile up

By Joseph Domelowicz

For the Transcript

Winthrop Public Works Director Dave Hickey confirmed this week that the early season snow and ice storms that have
been hitting the town and region on an almost weekly basis since the week after Christmas, have taken a toll on thetown’s under-funded snow and ice removal budget.

“We got an increase in the snow and ice budget this (current year) from $40,000 last year to $50,000 this year,” said Hickey. “However, we’re at right about $90,000 spent now and with another storm rolling in here this week (the Winthrop forecast was predicting a four to six inch snowfall for late Wednesday into early Thursday morning), I’d expect that we’d be right around $100,000 or about double the budget by the end of the week.”

Hickey also said that if the current trend of weekly snowfalls and blizzards continues through the rest of the winter, it would not be surprising to see the town top $200,000 in snow and ice removal costs before the end of the winter.

“I don’t have a crystal ball and obviously have no idea what the next month or six weeks will bring,” said Hickey. “But at this rate, we’re looking at spending about four times the budget for this year.”

Traditionally, going over budget on snow and ice removal costs has been allowed by the state legislature, because it is essentially impossible to predict what the town’s needs will be for snow and ice removal during a budget process that takes place a full calendar year beforehand.

Additionally, in past years when cities and towns were surprised by higher than normal annual snowfalls, the legislature has assisted by providing mid-year snow and ice funding from the state budget. However, in the currentfiscal climate, it is not known whether or not the legislature will even have the funding available to give back to cities and towns that are forced to over-extend themselves to clear streets and sidewalks.

The more snow falls in the coming four to six weeks, the more likely that Winthrop will be looking to push a portion of those costs off to the next fiscal year, by paying those costs late as part of an unpaid bills appropriation in the Fiscal Year 2012 budget instead.

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