Despite lots of winter left and a nearly depleted budget, Laconia in good shapeBy JOHN KOZIOL
Union Leader Correspondent
February 10. 2015 11:38PM
LACONIA — Despite above average snowfall, a nearly-expended maintenance budget, only a partially-filled salt shed and several weeks of winter remaining, Public Works Director Paul Moynihan says the city is weathering the season as well as can be hoped.
As of Tuesday, Laconia has received 83 inches of snow, which is 2 inches more than the average of 81 inches, said Russ Hobby, a consulting meteorologist based in Laconia whose clients, among others, include the city, the National Weather Service and several radio and television stations.
While it still has a long way to go to break either the all-time monthly or seasonal records of 65.5 inches of snow set in February 1969 and 138.9 inches during the winter of 2007-2008, Laconia is on the way, said Hobby, with 26.7 inches of the white stuff so far in February, 11 inches in the past three days.
Moynihan figured that as of Tuesday, his department’s cumulative winter maintenance budget was about 95 percent expended. The budget of $406,000 comprises money to buy sand and salt, to pay for overtime labor and to hire private contractors to plow city and Laconia School Department parking lots.
Of the $50,000 that the city council allocated for overtime, all of it was exhausted by Jan. 31, said Moynihan, while the outside services component — which also includes rent that the DPW pays to the city for using municipal equipment, which then goes into a special revenue fund to buy more plow trucks and sanders — is about 80 percent spent.
Although the DPW’s salt shed is only about 20 percent full, the good news is that at $56.41 a ton, road salt is still a good buy any time that the supplier, whom Moynihan understands is trying to keep up with demand, can get it to Laconia.
The largest city in New Hampshire north of Concord, Laconia has a financial cushion that it can fall back upon, said Moynihan. He said several years ago, when the city had a surplus in its winter maintenance fund, city councilors created a special reserve fund that currently has a $100,000 balance.
The city council can tap that reserve fund, Moynihan explained, or, as in fiscal year 2014, it can let the expenses accrue and hope that there’s enough unexpended money in the rest of the DPW budget to cover any winter maintenance overages.
While the DPW had surpluses last year, Moynihan thinks the council may dip into the reserve because this year the DPW budget is leaner and doesn’t have the same potential.
Apart from figuring out a way of paying to remove snow, Moynihan said the DPW also has to have a place to put it. For now, a “snow farm” on South Street is filling the bill but Moynihan pointed out that space there may get scarce eventually.