DPW exceeds snow budget by $50,000

by Town Reminder

DPW exceeds snow budget by $50,000

By Scott Feldman
Turley Publications Correspondent

SOUTH HADLEY – A combination of heavy snowfall and freezing temperatures has forced the Department of Public Works to work plenty of overtime hours in order to keep the roads safe.
According to DPW Director Jim Reidy, there has been roughly 70 inches of snowfall, with more than 50 inches coming in January (numbers as of Feb.7). Although he did not have the official records, Reidy believes that this was one of the snowiest Januarys in decades.
“I don’t remember this much snow being on the ground since I was a kid, and that was 35 years ago,” Reidy said.
The DPW has plenty of experience with snow removal, but it has been much more challenging than usual because of the frequency of storms working in tandem with very low temperatures, which has created a virtually unprecedented build-up of snow along the roads.
“Because of the cold, the snow that’s fallen really hasn’t melted. Just recently over the past couple of days we’ve had some melting, but other than that we haven’t had significant melting,” Reidy said.
He explained that in most cases, there are some relatively warm days following a snow storm that melt the snow banks to make room for the next batch of snowfall. This year that simply hasn’t happened.
“Usually we have a January thaw, which would melt the snow a little bit and make room for the snow from the next storm,” Reidy said. “That hasn’t been the case this year.”
In certain areas of the town, the snow banks have grown so tall that the DPW has been forced to use other methods of snow removal besides plowing.
“Sometimes we have to put it in trucks and haul it away because there’s just no more room by the curb,” Reidy said.
The snowfall has also affected several town services including trash collections. Three times this year the DPW has been forced to postpone collection by one day because of the storms.
It is not even halfway through February and the DPW has already exceeded its allotted snow removal budget of $100,005 by about $50,000. Reidy explained that this isn’t as bad as it sounds because that amount of money is almost never enough to last the entire season. What typically happens is the DPW will spend as much as necessary during the winter and have the deficit paid for at the Town Meeting in May.
It is virtually impossible to accurately project how much money will be used by the end of the year because is so dependent on the weather. Reidy did say that one year he had to spend more than $280,000 to keep the roads safe.
Reidy passed along several tips for residents from a fore department chief on how to deal with excess snow. Homeowners should make sure at least two entrances are clear of snow, so if there’s ever a problem that requires immediate attention, emergency service workers can get into the house. Another recommendation is for residents to be cautious regarding their roofs. Already several garage roofs in South Hadley have collapsed due to the weight of snowfall. Reidy also suggested citizens check their heating system and make sure that any vents to the outdoors are not blocked.
He is hopeful that there won’t be too much more snow this winter, but he and his staff will do the best they can to handle whatever Mother Nature has in store for South Hadley.