Archived Story

Costs still add up despite less snowfall

Published 4:40pm Saturday, January 5, 2013

The city of Austin may have spent less on snow removal last year, but that doesn’t necessarily mean city staff are expecting a fiscally easy winter.

“It was less work involved with plowing snow [last year], most definitely,” said Public Works Director Jon Erichson. “It’s not necessarily a lighter year.”

The city operates on a set budget for its public works staff, yet can save money during the winter depending on when it snows and how much snowfall city workers have to plow. Last winter was relatively light — the area’s total precipitation in 2012 was about 22 inches, almost five inches less than 2011.

Yet less work doesn’t necessarily mean more savings, according to Erichson. The city saved money last year by using less diesel fuel, but diesel prices rose far higher than city officials expected during the 2011 budgeting process.

“What we made up for in savings, for instance, in fuel, we ate up in price per gallon,” he said.

Yet the city had a surplus of sand/salt mix, which city workers use to treat roads. The city usually budgets for about 3,000 to 3,500 tons of sand and salt, according to city officials, and the surplus will be used this year.

“We’ve got plenty of sand and salt stored for the winter,” said Assistant Engineer Steven Lang.

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