A lthough Washington County has become a winter wonderland for fans of outdoor sports such as snowmobiling, snowshoeing and cross-country skiing, the costs of keeping the roads used to get to the trailheads clear and safe are straining the budgets of the Granville village and town crews.
Granville Town Highway Superintendent John Tanner said the frequency of the storms and the amount of snow dropped on area highways have become the problem. As with frequent ice storms and freezing precipitation in past winters, Tanner said, it is the number of trips out and the miles logged that have costs headed in a worrisome direction.
The driving force behind the higher cost of moving snow is the cost of petroleum products, he said.
Costs for everything — from fuel and oil to any of the parts associated with snow removal have soared. “We feel just like a homeowner. It seems like everything we touch is going up,” Tanner said.
In the village Department of Public Works Superintendent Dan Williams said snow removal costs really surge when multiple big storms hit the village in close proximity to one another. Once again the costs come down to fuel, he said, and the village burns a lot of fuel cleaning up from the storms.
“It’s when we end up having to clear up all the side streets that the costs really go up for us,” Williams said.
The village ends up spending a lot of time operating machinery to remove the mounds of snow accumulated within the village, which have to go to make room for the next storm, Williams said. Those machines burn fuel, which even with state contract pricing is up to more than $3 per gallon for the sidewalk plow, skid-steer and front-end loader as well as dump trucks and plows.
Both men said costs associated with overtime are not as significant a concern as fuel costs.
Heavy snows are having a different impact on the Granville school district.
“So far so good,” business manager Cathy Somich said, regarding snow removal expenditures.
Despite increases in fuel costs the district was still within the fuel cost estimates budgeted for the winter. Manpower costs had likewise been anticipated. “As far as energy use, we’re right there,” she said.
One area that is difficult to anticipate is how often school might need to be canceled or ended early.
Superintendent Mark Bessen said the district is almost out of snow days. “We’ve got one left; anything after that would probably have to come off of April break,” Bessen said. The school district started the season with three snow days and has used two this month.