Janesville-4.5°

Heavy snowfall tips plow budgets

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Kayla Bunge
December 26, 2007

You'd think Bradford Township officials would be kicking themselves right now.


Mother Nature has dumped more than 17 inches of snow on the town, racking up a $43,456 snow plowing and salting bill from the Janesville company with which the town privately contracts.


That's compared to the $32,178 the town would have paid to Rock County under a flat-rate contract for snow removal.


But town Clerk Sandra Clarke said town officials aren't worried—the town still is saving money when costs are averaged over a two-year period.


In 2006, the town only spent about $8,800 on snow plowing.


Bradford Township is one of three townships in Rock County that do not contract with the county for snow plowing. Beloit and Turtle townships plow and salt their own roads, as each has its own department.


"This has been a trial to see how we can get the most for our road work dollars," Clarke said. "Nothing against the county, we just want to get the most for our tax money."


The county charges townships $600 per centerline mile for snow removal. That's based on the cost of equipment, fuel, sand and salt. Rock County Public Works Director Ben Coopman said this winter, the 17 townships that contract with the county are getting a bargain.


"The costs seem to be rising more quickly than the rate per mile," he said. "We're losing ground."


Coopman said this winter has been brutal. Not only did most of the snow fall on the weekend—sending plow drivers into overtime—but the snow was accompanied by rain and ice, which meant plows were out clearing the same roads several days in a row.


The county knows costs are going to keep rising; the proposed per-centerline-mile rate for 2008 is $675. But a township looking to maintain its own roads faces a huge monetary hurdle just to get off the ground, Coopman said.


"The bottom line is, if they try to do something on their own, there's a lot of extra costs," he said.


Beloit Township has been on its own since the late 1970s, Public Works Director Howard Hemmer said.


"County costs were going up," he said, "and we figured we could go out and do it. We thought we would save money."


The town is about $5,000 over budget in overtime alone, Hemmer said, but in the grand scheme of things, "it's not that bad."


Perhaps the sole exception to the rule, Turtle Township is right on the money.


"We keep our pencil very sharp," Highway Superintendent Mike Birkholz said. "We're a small community, and we watch every penny we spend. We're very frugal in what we do."


Clarke said Bradford Township's transition from contracting with the county to contracting with a private company for its snow removal has been a learning process, but one that has given the town more control over its spending.


"We've been able to know what we're spending, when we're spending it," she said. "We know where we're at at any given time."


Bradford Township started contracting with a private company in 2006.


PLOWING BUDGETS

A look at what municipalities in Rock and Walworth counties have spent on snow plowing and salting since January:


Rock County

City of Edgerton


Budgeted: $75,673


Spent: $96,506


How it plans to cover costs: From savings in other categories of the 2007 budget.


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City of Evansville


Budgeted: $80,000 to $90,000 (wages only)


Spent: unavailable


Notes: City Administrator Dan Wietecha said public works staff averaged 35 hours in overtime in the last couple of weeks.


How it plans to cover costs: "Since all public works wages are lumped together, it might mean limiting hours or overtime later in the year," Wietecha said. "Or it might mean a budget amendment to unallocate monies budgeted for something else."


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City of Janesville


Budgeted: $808,314


Spent: $1.01 million through November


How it plans to cover costs: From savings in other categories of the 2007 budget.


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Village of Orfordville


Budgeted: $5,500 (wages only)


Spent: $7,069 through Dec. 9


Notes: "We'll be a lot over next week (after the next pay period)," Clerk Sherri Waege said.


How it plans to cover costs: With money in contingencies.


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City of Milton


Budgeted: $9,842 (fuel), $15,770 (supplies)


Spent: Unavailable


Notes: Public Works Director Howard Robinson expects the city to run about $5,000 over budget for snow removal supplies, mostly salt, sand and fuel, according to a memo he sent the personnel and finance committee. He expects the city to come within budget for wages and under budget overall for the street department.


How it plans to cover costs: The city council Dec. 18 approved transferring money from other categories in the public works budget to the snow-removal category.


Walworth County

Village of Darien


Budgeted: $4,485 (sand and salt)


Spent: $3,315


Notes: Public Works Director Greg Epping said the village budget for sand and salt is set per season, not per fiscal year. He said the village already has used about 80 percent of its supply before Jan. 1, and the village might have to buy more.


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City of Delavan


Budgeted: $22,000 (sand and salt)


Spent: $25,532 through November


How it plans to cover costs: From savings in other categories of the 2007 budget.


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City of Elkhorn


Budgeted: unavailable


Spent: $71,000


Notes: City Administrator Sam Tapson said the city doesn't specifically budget for snow removal. The costs are included within the general public works budget.


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Village of Fontana


Budgeted: $19,000 (sand and salt)


Spent: $27,116


Notes: "In Fontana, as with most municipalities, it's definitely safety first," Village Administrator Kelly Hayden said. "We go through an overwhelming amount of salt because of our terrain."


How it plans to cover costs: From savings in other categories of the 2007 budget.


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City of Lake Geneva


Budgeted: $87,353


Spent: $92,095


How it plans to cover costs: From savings in other categories of the 2007 budget.


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Village of Sharon


Budgeted: $7,993


Spent: $9,284


Notes: Clerk/Treasurer Dawn Redenius said public works staff had 20-25 hours overtime Dec. 1-15.


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Village of Walworth


Budgeted: $9,800 (sand and salt)


Spent: $9,850


How it plans to cover costs: From savings in other categories of the 2007 budget.


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City of Whitewater


Budgeted: $123,400


Spent: $94,000 through October


Notes: Public Works Director Dean Fischer said the city's snow plowing budget "is in good shape."


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Village of Williams Bay


Budgeted: $9,400


Spent: $10,600


Notes: Village Administrator/Treasurer Bob Carlson said the village's public works budget as a whole is under budget.



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