Non-stop storms draining Westport DPW budget
Published 10:07 am, Thursday, February 3, 2011
Amidst a winter of prolific snow, Westport Department of Public Works Director Steve Edwards told the Board of Finance Wednesday night that non-stop storm clean-up operations are also battering his budget.
Out of a total DPW budget of about $8.2 million for this year, about $410,000 was allocated for a "storm-account" budget, Edwards said in his informal report. So far this year, Edwards estimated the DPW had spent approximately $675,000 responding to the storms.
"Unfortunately, the way these storms are coming, every three to four to five days we're getting another storm," he said. "I can't even add them up that quick."
Despite running a deficit for the general storm budget, Edwards told the finance board that DPW is within budget for employee overtime costs. The department has spent about $74,000 out of an allotted $82,000 for current year overtime expenses; the fiscal year ends June 30.
Edwards on Wednesday did not ask the finance panel to approve any additional funds.
Following is an outline provided by Edwards of the scope and focus of the DPW storm budget.
What does the town's storm budget cover?
The $410,000 budget covers clean-up costs from all storms that hit Westport during a 12-month period. In addition to blizzards, DPW personnel may be called upon to respond to hurricanes, wind storms and any other acts of nature.
For snowfall, the budget encompasses expenditures for plowing public roads and parking lots, and transferring snow to several deposit points on town properties.
Most of the town's snow is being transferred to two sites -- the Imperial Avenue and Compo Beach parking lots. Crews also dump the excess snow at town-owned downtown parking lots and school parking lots. When space becomes limited at these smaller parking lots, crews often move snow to the mountainous piles at Imperial Avenue and Compo Beach.
Who plows the town's roads and parking lots?
A crew of about 16 town employees, drawn primarily from DPW's Highway Division, leads the plowing of 123 miles of Westport roads, plus three main contractors, Kowalsky Bros., A.J. Penna and Son, and DPS Services.
Town workers with equipment are generally assigned the job of clearing certain routes for the year. In the fall, these workers will adjust technical specifications of their machines and do practice runs on their routes.
DPW crews also sand the town's roads.
What equipment does the town use for snow plowing and transfers?
DPW has 16 plow-equipped trucks, two wheel loaders and two backhoe loaders.
How has this equipment held up so far this winter?
During each major storm, Edwards says about three to five pieces of equipment break down from problems such as metal fatigue and transmission difficulties.
While a DPW mechanic will first try to make repairs, the crews will often switch to backup machines so they can continue to plow and move the snow.
How will the town pay for the unbudgeted winter storm costs?
At the end of the season -- likely in April -- Edwards will submit a formal appropriations request to the Board of Finance for additional funding. The board's chairwoman, Helen Garten, and First Selectman Gordon Joseloff have both indicated the town will fund all storm-related expenditures the department incurs this winter.
"We'll pay whatever it takes," Joseloff said last week. "We don't skimp."
Garten told the Westport News last week that supplemental funding for winter storm costs would come from unspent funds in other budget accounts or from town cash reserves.