Mild Winter Weather Impacts Westport Spending

Thanks to the distinct lack of snow this past winter, Westport has spent considerably less on snow removal this year as compared to last year. The howling winds and snow canyons of the past winter have been replaced by 2012’s fifty-degree days and sunny skies.

According to Director of the Public Works Department, Steve Edwards, the biggest expenses that come with winter weather are the costs of clearing snow from the roads and hiring contractors. The town has sixteen pieces of equipment that it uses to clear 123 miles of roadway. “We’re out there twenty four hours, running straight through the storm,” Edwards said.

Aside from plowing, of roads, the town hires outside companies to clear roadways and parking areas at Westport’s schools and public parking lots. According to Edwards, the cost of contractors makes up about two-thirds of the cost of winter storms.

For contractors, the lack of winter storms has made a dent in snow-related income. Kowalsky Brothers, the contracting company that plows the Westport schools, has made less profit off of snow-related jobs.

“Last year was a great year,” said Daryl Kowalsky, one of the owners of the business.

Although the company is not busy with snow plowing jobs, the warm weather allows it to work on other projects. According to Kowalsky, because of the warm temperatures, workers can continue on projects that would usually have to be put aside for the winter.  Due to these extra projects, which include underground site work at the Urban Outfitters location and drainage projects, Kowalsky estimates that the company is bringing in about the same amount of revenue as past years.

“Hopefully the town saved a lot of money on their snow plow budget,” Kowalsky said.

Thus far, the town has spent $157,742 on unnamed storms.  This number is paltry compared to the $700,000 spent on snowstorms last year.

Although the cost of snowstorms this year is well below the $410,000 allocated in a storm budget, the cost of the fall’s Hurricane Irene and Storm Albert have piled on expenses. “The storm budget accommodates the cost of any storm event,” said Edwards.

Irene cost the town $357,000, while Alfred, the freak October snowstorm, cost $63,000. Much of these costs were incurred in debris removal. In total, the storm expenses a total of $578,000, putting the town over budget.

If the town were to spend more than the allocated amount, the extra dollars would come out of a town contingency fund for emergencies. However, Edwards expects to receive federal reimbursement money.

Edwards anticipates that roughly $315,000 will be reimbursed in July.

“My budget will close out in a deficit because the money will arrive after the fiscal year closes,” Edwards said.

However, once the town receives the money, there will be excess money in the storm budget that had not been spent. This money will go back into the town budget for reallocation.

The storm budget is proposed by Edwards and approved by the Board of Finance. Edwards requests an amount of money based on a three year running average. “Based on the bad winter last year, my request for next year will be significantly above $410,000,” Edwards said.