Wisconsin needs more money for snow costs

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Associated Press | May 2, 2014

MADISON — County highway departments have spent so much money dealing with snow and ice on state roads this year that the Wisconsin Department of Transportation next week will ask the Legislature to allot $27.3 million more to cover those costs.

Some county departments say there was nothing they could do to cut costs. The winter brought repeated storms with above-average snow to plow, below-average temperatures with ice to melt and other costs that couldn't have been budgeted for. The state also had to buy more salt at a higher price. All that added up.

"I know the reason. It's very simple. It just snowed, and snowed, and snowed," said Ashland County Highway Commissioner Emmer Shields.

Shields' northern Wisconsin county has already spent more than its entire $350,000 budget for winter work by March 31. The county already has a $20,000 deficit, not counting costs for April snow. That leaves nothing for winter costs in October-December.

"The option is to cut back on summer work, but that's not a good thing to think about either," Shields said. "We could be dealing with safety issues in summer" if the request isn't approved and costs are cut there.

Shields' county is small, but its problems echo throughout the state.

Wisconsin contracts with counties to help maintain state highways in addition to their own county roads. Invoices are still coming in from counties for work plowing and salting state roads since January, and more are on the way as county departments continue plowing spring snow.

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