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Winter Still Being Felt in Municipal Budgets

by on June 11, 2014 6:00 AM

Accuweather meteorologist Mark Paquette remembers that last winter started early.

In fact, a November ice storm left him without power for two days at his Boalsburg home.

Months of colder than usual temperatures and multiple snow and ice events followed, leaving a legacy of lingering effects that some municipalities in Centre County are still feeling, even as summer begins to round the bend.

State College Borough Manager Tom Fountaine says the borough is over budget by 20 to 25 percent for winter-related labor and equipment costs, which can be offset by carefully managing overtime during projects throughout the rest of the year.

“With our roads is a different story,” State College Public Works Director Mark Whitfield says. “We got hit pretty hard in terms of damage to the roadway system and degradation of the pavement we have.”

University Drive near Easterly Parkway was damaged most dramatically, when the top layer of pavement “just literally disintegrated,” causing potholes to form quicker than the road could be repaired, according to Whitfield.

This top layer has since been removed, and will be resurfaced later in the summer, which “amounts to probably around $150,000 we didn’t anticipate spending this year,” which Whitfield says is more difficult for the borough to absorb than the relatively small overtime costs.

“We’ve spent probably three times what we would normally spend for overtime, salt application and plowing roads,” says Bellefonte Borough Manager Ralph Stewart.

This increased snow removal cost is the result of the approximately 54 inches of snow the area received over the winter, which is nearly a foot more than the average 44 inches the region typically sees, according to Paquette.

Stewart says these increased snow removal costs come at a price and the borough is looking to offset these expenses.

This is accomplished by evaluating planned projects and possibly cutting back on street paving costs, delaying construction equipment replacement or adjusting other expenses in the budget.

“It’s a little more difficult than past years, but we have to try and absorb it somewhere in the other projects we had planned,” Stewart says. “We run a very tight budget as it is, without a lot of rooms for error in our budgeting and resources.”

While every community tries to be prepared each winter, knowing exactly what to expect presents difficulties.

“You just can’t predict winter,” Fountaine says. “You have to look at long averages and budget accordingly.”

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Michael Martin Garrett is a freelance reporter who frequently writes for the Centre County Gazette
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