Had enough of winter? Well, if you haven’t, Woolwich’s budget certainly has. Coming out of its most expensive year ever for snow-clearing, the township hasn’t seen much of a reprieve so far in 2014.
But there’s no way the budget will take another hit like last year, right? Dan Kennaley, the township’s director of engineering and planning, certainly hopes not.
“That’s the absolute worst that we’ve ever seen,” he said of the $939,000 spent on clearing snow in 2013, some $300,000 more than what was in the budget.
This year’s budget, approved last week by council, is $620,000, which would be in keeping with the five-year average for keeping the roads plowed and salted.
The budget follows a calendar year, meaning costs for 2014 will come in the early part of the year, pause for spring and summer, then resume in the last two of three months. There’s just no knowing what will happen with the weather. Last year, for instance, a large ice storm hit in April, with another rolling in just before Christmas.
So far this year, there’s been snow, some melting leading to icy conditions and extremely bitter temperatures and wind-chills, causing drifting and reducing the effectiveness of road salt (on the upside, there’s been less salt used in those conditions, with some savings).
“We’ve been out a lot already this year,” said Kennaley.
The weather in 2013 led to a similar budget picture for the sidewalk snow-clearing budget, which is funded by a special levy on Elmira residents. Costs soared to $173,000 last year from a budgeted amount of $70,000.
That was in part due to better service levels from the contractor – Mitchell Property Maintenance – and partly due to the poor weather.
“Those costs occurred in a year when we had much more significant weather, including two ice storms,” said Kennaley, noting the township is much happier with the service provided by the new company.
“We wanted an improved performance from our contractor, and we’re getting that – they’re doing a much better job.”
Councillors said they are hearing far fewer complaints, with Kennaley noting the call volume is way down. After one snowfall last season, for instance, the township received some 200 calls. Now, there are “hardly any,” he said.
In previous years, the township received many complaints about how long it would take to clear the sidewalks, the poor job and damage done to grass on the lawns and boulevards on either side of the walkways. Thanks to specifications in the contract requiring better equipment, there’s much less damage being done, especially in the older parts of Elmira where the sidewalks are narrower, Kennaley explained.
This year, the township will be monitoring sidewalk clearing in an attempt to keep costs down.
“We like the fact there’s been improvement, but don’t want the pendulum to swing the other way,” he said of the costs. In other words, the township wants good … just not too good.
In response to a question from Coun. Allan Poffenroth at the January 16 budget session, director of finance Richard Petherick said the cost overages from 2013 will be billed to Elmira residents this year, explaining that billing is “rolled forward” to cover actual expenses.
The township budgets $70,000 for sidewalk snow-clearing. Some years are mild, meaning the next year’s billing goes down – such was the case in a mild 2012, when $46,000 was spent – and some may be higher, as was certainly the case in 2013.
The extra costs for 2013 will be billed back to Elmira residents this year. A homeowner with an assessed value of $269,000 will pay $38 as opposed to $13.43 in 2012, for instance.