Photo by David Rauzi
Winter keeps on coming with regular snow flurries putting inches on the ground, ensuring sidewalk shovelers keep busy -- such as John Warford, pictured here last Wednesday, Feb. 22, clearing space in front of Idaho County Title on Grangeville’s Main Street.
As of Tuesday, February 28, 2017
GRANGEVILLE It’s been more than a notable snow year for the region. For the City of Grangeville public works department, the numbers tell the story.
On average, the city expended 22 percent of its budgeted funds for snow removal in the 2014-15 and 2015-16 seasons. So, how’s 2016-17 stack up?
“This year it is 126 percent. “We’re over budget,” said public works director Jeff McFrederick, emphasizing, “We blew our budget.”
Public works is responsible for plowing streets and removing snow that has been accumulating since November, and there’s been a lot of it, and it’s been wet and heavy.
Meteorologist LeeAnn Allegretto, National Weather Service office in Missoula, said there’s been an abundance of snow this winter with a lot of heavy water content. With the start of the water year on Oct. 1 to Feb. 23, Grangeville reported receiving a total 54 inches of snow and a total 11.9 inches of moisture (rain and snowfall combined). Snow water equivalent is 130 percent of normal.
“That’s well above average,” she said. All this is due to the region being in the right position between the Polar and Pacific jet streams that have brought the right amounts of both cold weather and moisture.
McFrederick said his department plans for snow removal between November to February, and that budget was gone this season within the first month and a half.
“When something like snow removal takes a hit, other line items suffer,” he said, “so I make sure my bottom line is good, and if we run over we have to make it up in other areas,” such as in paving or maintenance. The impact to those areas isn’t expected to be significant, and overall the public works department is running well within the black, he said, with good reserves built up for the street, water and sewer funds. Spending its full budget, or overspending, is not an issue for public works, he said.
At the end of the fiscal year, “We always turn money back,” McFrederick said.
“[Snow removal] is a lot more technical than people think it is,” McFrederick explained. Crews monitor weather and snow conditions to determine, for example, whether snow should melt on its own rather than devote effort to plowing and removal, if removal will aggravate icy conditions, and when the next push of work should begin to keep ahead of buildup.
He said crews have “worked their tails off” this season, clearing snow and then hauling this to the rodeo grounds – “This is the first time I’ve ever seen it as full as it is,” he said – and in some cases completing the work to have it snow another six inches. Contract help is an option McFrederick tries not to use, but with crews stretched between regular projects and this year’s extraordinary snow removal, he’s employed extra help this season (having used 75 percent of that allotted budget fund); the second time that’s happened since he started with the city in 2011.
“It’s been an interesting year,” he said.