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Norwalk's Snow Costs Are Piling Up

The region’s snowiest winter in years is taking its toll on both Norwalk’s plow drivers and its city budget. Charlie Mace isn't wild about the work. "It's frustrating, with all the traffic and stuff like that," he says.

Mark Re doesn't like it either. It gets irritating after a while, he says, and though you would think he'd be happy about all the OT, he isn't. "Anything over 16 hours the federal government takes," said Re, who had 31 hours of overtime and counting when he was interviewed last week.

Overtime is just part of the city’s cost, Department of Public Works Director Hal Alvord said. So far the city has spent about $600,000 on the worst winter in decades.

"We've exceeded our snow overtime budget," Alvord said. "We've exceeded our snow mealtime budget. We have not yet exceeded our salt budget. When you have these heavy volumes of snow, you don't use a lot of salt. You use a lot of salt when you've got an inch or two of snow, or you've got ice and sleet and freezing rain."

Other costs include snowplow blades , chains, vehicle maintenance and fuel. "Our total budget for snow removal was about $753,000, so we're still under, if you tally up all the categories," Alvord said.

Plowing is only part of the job. The snow must be removed from city streets too. And though the Connecticut Department of Environmental Protection has lifted its ban on dumping snow in the river or harbor, the city has been storing it at the DPW waste yard or at Taylor Farm.

"The problem is you've got to have their express permission [with very detailed filings] and we don't have a convenient place to dump it [into the water]," Alvord said. Taylor Farm is appealing because the gates can be locked.

Complicating cleanups is the fact that the city can't really move a lot of snow. That takes equipment, and the city has only three front-end loaders. They are expensive and haven't been needed.

"The budget process is a unique animal anyway," Alvord said. "I think there's a tendency to look at what happened in the previous year and kind of use that for your target. Department heads always ask for more than they think they're going to get, although they ask for what they need, or at least we ask for what we need. You never get it for the typical winter. And then something like this happens and everybody thinks that we're budgeted to be prepared for anything that happens. Of course, that's not the case."

Do you think the worst of the winter is over? Has the DPW been doing a good job? Comment below.

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