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Winter's final storm could break bank for Manchester plow budget

New Hampshire Union Leader

March 19. 2013 9:13PM

MANCHESTER - Winter's last snowstorm Tuesday could be the one that plows the city's snow budget into deficit spending.

"We're hoping that this won't push us over budget, but we'll have to keep our eyes on it," Public Works Director Kevin Sheppard said Tuesday.

"No storm is ever welcomed by us, especially late in the season like this," he said. "Our snow budget is tight."

His department prior to Tuesday had a little less than $100,000 left of its $1.2 million annual snow budget. Sheppard won't know for a few days how much this storm will cost. If the snow budget is exceeded, Sheppard will look at other areas for savings. The city's single-stream recycling program has boosted recycling and reduced garbage tonnage, providing some savings he could tap, he said.

Last winter's snow removal cost of $550,000 compared to $1.2 million in 2011, $900,000 in 2010 and close to $1.8 million in 2009.

"We try to budget for an average winter, but I'm not sure there is such a thing as an average winter," Sheppard said.

Overtime and salt roughly split the $1.2 million budgeted, with fuel for trucks coming from a different budget line item.

Mayor Ted Gatsas said Sheppard manages his department well.

"There's been some big ones," Gatsas said of the parade of winter storms. "I think if we see another big storm like this, that would make me worry."

Sheppard said the city had more than 40 pieces of snow-removal equipment out Tuesday to clear more than 400 miles of roads as well as downtown sidewalks.

"We just ask people to keep their vehicles off the streets during our plowing operations," he said. "That allows us to clean up quicker and keep the roads safer."

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