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East Longmeadow faces at least $188,000 deficit in snow budget

Date: 2/26/2015

EAST LONGMEADOW – Old man winter has taken its toll in many respects this year, including a current budget deficit of about $188,000 related to snow removal costs.

Department of Public Works (DPW) Superintendent Robert Peirent told Reminder Publications snow removal costs for this year are currently estimated at $300,000. Approximately $112,000 has been allocated for snow and ice removal in the budget.

“It’s been a difficult year,” he added. “The storms have come at us almost non-stop, every week of multiple storms per week and it’s put us in a situation similar to where we were last year relative to budget.”

Peirent said in 2013-2014 season, the town spent $474,000 on its snow and ice related costs. The roughly $112,000 budget has been leveled for more than a decade.

“It’s been the Appropriation Committee’s decision to keep the snow and ice removal budget leveled, recognizing that in most years, probably every year, it’s going to be insufficient,” he added.

Traditionally, the Appropriations Committee has used free cash or under runs on other line items reallocated to balance the budget, Peirent said.

“Obviously, it’s our job to make the roads to make them safe, to make them passable, but to do it as cost effectively as we can,” he added.

If Gov. Charlie Baker were to declare states of emergency throughout the Commonwealth related winter storms, reimbursements could be awarded to communities, Peirent said.

“I don’t believe that has happened,” he added. “At this point there has been no talk of reimbursement for snow removal costs coming from the state and the [federal government]. If there were ever funds available, obviously, I’d expect them to be made available to where the greatest needs are. Although it’s been a difficult winter for Western Massachusetts, it’s been a much more difficult winter for Eastern Massachusetts.”

Peirent said salt prices, which account for an estimated three quarters of the budget, have increased this year by 40 percent.  

“Our budget is $20,000 for salaries and $90,000 for expenses,” he added. “Last year for instance, are actually expenditures on salaries were $90,000 and on expenses were $384,000 and the biggest piece of that, by far, is salt.”

Last year, salt supplies were exhausted nationally, which caused low amounts for this season and subsequently the overall price was driven up, Peirent said.

The town’s DPW consists of 30 staff members and about the same amount of vehicle, he noted.

“Essentially at this time of year, everyone from all different departments within the DPW plow snow,” Peirent added.     

Ultimately, every winter storm is unique and the DPW response for each storm is looked at on a “case by case basis,” he said.

“The guys have done a great job,” he added. “They have stepped up. They have, often at times, worked 24 hours or 36 hours without a break doing what they need to do to get it done in what is often a thankless job. The town should be happy and proud that they continue to be there when we need them.”