By Gina Morton
The Daily Item
As municipal crews geared up Monday afternoon for their third snowstorm in 10 days, the effort to keep streets clear is depleting salt stockpiles and increasing overtime costs.
Last year in Selinsgrove, the borough exceeded its allocation under a state joint purchasing program and was forced to buy road salt outside the state contract — an expensive proposition. Borough manager John Bickhart is worried that will happen again this year.
The borough determines the amount of salt to purchase based on historic trends, Bickhart said.
"Anytime you expend the snow removal or salt treatment budget in the beginning of winter, it's a concern because we end the budget in the snow season as well," Bickhart said. "This is only February. We've got October, November, December to live through yet. There's no good reason to expect this is the last snowstorm we see."
Selinsgrove budgeted $32,000 for snow and ice removal in 2010, with $15,000 of that to go toward construction of a salt storage structure. The remaining $17,000 was set aside for wages, overtime, materials, vehicle use and maintenance. Over the last six years, about $14,000 has been the average annual cost for snow removal, Bickhart said.
In case of an emergency, there are items in the budget that can be deferred, so the borough doesn't have to go into debt, he said.
George Stump, street foreman for Lewisburg, said his workers have been busy.
"Last year there was hardly any snow," he said. "This season seems like one right after another."
On Monday, workers were doing repairs on trucks and plows in anticipation of the snowstorm. Stump said he has enough salt for the year.
Don Shobert, Riverside street department supervisor, said the borough has enough salt for now.
"I order every time the salt shed gets about half empty," he said. "That way I'm sure we have enough. We try to keep ahead."
According to the borough's 2010 budget, $12,000 was allocated for salt and cinders and $6,000 toward snow removal overtime.
"We use (salt) sparingly until the roads are clear and then treat them with salt and cinders," Shobert said.
State Rep. Bob Belfanti Jr., D-107 of Mount Carmel, said he is seeking federal funds for his district following this week's snowstorm. He said federal disaster assistance would help municipalities that were forced to exceed their budgets to remove snow.
The governor declared a statewide disaster emergency Feb. 6. If a federal disaster is declared, Federal Emergency Management Agency funding would be available for the work.