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Mild Winter Cuts City’s Snow Plowing Cost by Half

Winter is not over, but it looks like Inver Grove Heights will end up saving tens of thousands of dollars on snow removal.

After last winter’s snow apocalypse, it seemed like the season never really arrived this year. Snowfall totals have been modest, so far, allowing Inver Grove Heights to keep almost $100,000 in its coffers.

Between November 2010 and February 2011, the city spent $52,000 on overtime for snow plowing crews, and $121.340 on 1,896 tons of salt, said City Manager Joe Lynch. For the same months this winter, costs are down by $95,120. The city spent $62,120 on salt, and a mere $16,100 on overtime.

Inver Grove Heights has no dedicated snow removal budget item for its 125 miles of local streets. Instead, expected expenditures are included in the general fund each year. The annual estimate is based on long term averages. 

“We have enough history to know that we have an average of 12 snowfall events per year,” said Lynch. Over the past six years, those averages have been trending down. “Obviously, last winter was an aberration.”

Snow removal is not the only strain on city budgets each winter. Inver Grove Heights had five water main breaks in 2010-’11, and only three in 2011-’12. According to Lynch, each repair costs $3,500 in labor and equipment.

At the end of the budget year, money saved goes to the general fund surplus. It can be carried over to the next budget year, used for unforeseen emergencies, or to fund one time projects.

The city generated further savings with its pro-active stance on snow removal, said Lynch. Instead of plowing after the facts, city officials now keep a close eye on the weather forecasts, so they can ‘pre-wet’ the streets with chemicals, and keep the snow from freezing to the pavement in trouble spots, such as intersection and steep grades.

“If we apply the chemicals within 24 hours of a snowfall, we don’t get the build-up of ice”, said Lynch. "Thanks to the chemicals, the snow can be removed more easily, enabling the city to cut down on overtime and salt.”

Lynch noted that salt is a pollutant. “We’ve done a better job protecting the environment.”

Tom Lawrence February 24, 2012 at 04:09 PM
If you use a lot of salt to melt the snow and ice doesn't the melted snow penetrate the asphalt, refreeze, and expand breaking up the asphalt creating potholes, cracking and damaged roadways? Growing up in Eagan as a kid they only used sand and let the snow pack down on the roadways to seal them. We had less cracks and damage than now (although I'm sure materials have changed!) I'm sure the wear and tear on the plow blades was less also. Why is the norm to have completely dry residential roads?

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