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Salt Lake City's budget iced by snow removal costs

Published February 20, 2013 9:20 am

Public services • City over budget on cost of salt, snowplow maintenance, driver OT and fuel.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2013, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Winter is not over, but Salt Lake City's snow removal budget is – by the sum of $673,000.

January in Salt Lake City was one cold, snowy month. According to a city memorandum, January 2013 saw the most snow in 17 years and was the coldest in 64 years.

In the same memo to the City Council, City Budget Director Gina Chamness outlined the expenditures. Beyond the $673,000 overrun, the city also spent $258,540 that was budgeted for snow removal. And city crews will need another estimated $200,000 for snow removal through the end of winter.

All told, that would be well over $1 million for snow removal within Salt Lake City limits.

The council is determined to adjust the budget now, and again when winter finally ends. "We've got to acknowledge that we'll pay for this," said Councilman Carlton Christensen.

Salt Lake City motorists struggled with several large snow storms in January. At times, it seemed to some drivers that snowplows were having a difficult time keeping up with Mother Nature.

But the plows kept rumbling, said Rick Graham, director of public services.

"Our people responded incredibly well, considering the conditions, the amount of snow and the cold temperatures," he said. "We were stretched to the limit, but we did as well as any snow removal organization."

According to statistics compiled by the city, 22 "ice and snow events" have already occurred this year, compared with a total of 20 during all of last year.

This winter, to date, Salt Lake City crews have spent 36 days "snow fighting," compared with 21 days during all of last winter.

In addition, Salt Lake City crews have used 26,215 tons of salt this winter, compared to 5,657 tons for all of last winter. And so far this winter, snowplows have driven 112,900 miles, compared with 27,453 last year.

Salt alone has cost $341,700 more than budgeted. And fleet maintenance costs for snowplows and mechanics is $222,900 over budget, according to city documents.

The city also has paid out $81,400 in overtime to snowplow drivers and is $18,400 over budget for fuel costs.

And the forecast for northern Utah looks snowy through Saturday, according to the National Weather Service.

"You can't budget [accurately] for winters like this," Graham said. "How do you budget for the snowiest January in 17 years? How do you budget for the coldest January in 64 years? Those things work together to provide a very significant challenge."

csmart@sltrib.com

'Snow fighting' facts

Salt Lake City crews have used 26,215 tons of salt this winter, compared to 5,657 tons for all of last winter. And snowplows have driven 112,900 miles so far this winter, compared with 27,453 last year.