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Plentiful storms sap Hooksett snow budget early in season

HOOKSETT — While only a quarter of the way through the winter, Hooksett Town Administrator Dean Shankle said that the town has already spent 80 percent of the town’s $140,000 winter budget.

“When talking about the winter budget, we mean plowing, sanding and salting. If things keep going as they have we are going to have to transfer money from the paving budget line to make up the difference,” Shankle said.

Shankle said that the department had planned for 26 weather events this winter, and already 20 have occurred. With a $257,000 paving budget and only $5,000 of it already spent, Shankle said there is more than enough money to cover the overage, but that it might impact the town in other ways.

“We might not get as much paving done in the spring, which is a shame because you don’t want to let the roads go,” Shankle said.

Along with having a lot of storms this winter, Shankle said the type of storms Hooksett has had to endure have been expensive.

“The storms with ice are always more expensive than just snow storms,” Shankle said.

Shankle and Town Council Chairman James Sullivan said that even if the winter maintenance budget is expended, the town will continue to ensure the roads are taken care of.

“We will continue to make sure the roads are plowed and salted. If we didn’t that would not go over well with residents. In the recent town survey we put out it showed that we rated very high in winter service, that has been the case for many years and we don’t want to mess with that,” Sullivan said.

Shankle said that if the bad weather keeps up, this will end up being the second year in a row the town’s winter maintenance budget has been busted.

“Last year we were $35,000 over,” Shankle said.

The winter maintenance budget is determined by averaging out the previous five budgets minus the highest amount spent and the lowest amount spent, he said.

“If we are now getting worse winters I guess we have to start adjusting for that. It looks like this will be the second year we will be over the average, so I guess we will have to adjust for it next year,” Shankle said.

Sullivan said he is surprised the budget has been depleted so quickly because Director of Public Works Leo Lessard went before the town council and detailed how using different materials for winter maintenance would help the town save money.

“I guess even with the new materials the weather has been bad enough that it looks like we may go over budget. But we have to make sure that we continue to take care of the roads; people don’t want to drive on a sheet of ice as they go to work,” Sullivan said.

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