By Michelle Murdock, Contributing Writer
Region – With the recent record-breaking snow fall this winter, the story is the same in many area towns; over budget for snow and ice removal.
“This winter has been relentless,” said Southborough’s Department of Public Works (DPW) Superintendent Karen Galligan whose department is over budget by about $135,000.
“As best we can,” said Galligan, “employees from highway, fleet and grounds have been out cutting down intersection snow piles and pushing back roads as best we can. However, we were plagued with three water main breaks last week, so we have to split the manpower to attend to the breaks.”
Galligan said she appreciates everyone’s patience since this winter has brought high snowfall amounts, frequency of storms, high winds and low temperatures.
In neighboring Westborough, the story is much the same. DPW Manager John Walden said his department has never experienced back to back snow events with such high totals like the current events.
“It’s been pretty much non-stop,” said Walden.
At this time, Walden says the Westborough DPW has received approval to deficit spend in the amount of $375,000, having already used up the original budget of $554,211 which included wages and expenses.
The number of mailboxes damaged by plows is also up, but Walden says some are just being leveled by the sheer weight of the snow, and while the town has made it a policy in the past to repair damaged mailboxes, this year it’s not feasible.
The Westborough DPW, along with outside contractors, are still in the process of working long hours to widen roads, push back corners and remove snow.
“The DPW staff, although exhausted, continues to do an incredible job with snow removal as well as performing their daily duties as well,” said Walden. “We cannot praise them enough!”
In Marlborough, the City Council has approved an additional $100,000 for snow and ice removal to help cover the costs for recent storms and total snow removal expenses are expected to reach $500,000.
In Hudson, where according to the National Weather Service the town received a total of 36” of snow, tied for the most snow during the Blizzard of 2015, the DPW is over budget by $480,000; $310,000 for expenses and another $170,000 for salary overtime.
While trying to keep up with snow removal, Hudson Public Works Director Anthony Marques says some secondary roads are passable, but narrow. And while tied for first place in terms of total inches for this year, Marques says the winter season of 2004-05 actually had more snow overall (rank #1 in past 45 years) and more snow in the January/February period.
“The employees of the department have responded wonderfully as expected in addition to daily workload requirements,” said Marques. “Town officials have been most supportive and citizens have been very understanding with minimal complaints overall.”
On February 12, the Massachusetts Congressional delegation sent a letter to Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Administrator W. Craig Fugate urging federal assistance for costs incurred by the recent storms.
“Many communities throughout the Commonwealth incurred significant disaster response and recovery costs responding to the storms,” the delegation wrote in the letter. “Federal assistance is critically needed to help the Commonwealth repair public facilities and infrastructure damaged or destroyed by the snowfall, as well as to recoup the costs of snow removal and road treatment.”