WARRENSBURG - A balmy, dry winter may have curtailed skiing and snowmobiling in the area, but it apparently has produced rewards for taxpayers.
The good weather has boosted municipal treasuries with money not spent on road salt and sand as well as the slashed costs of fuel, vehicle maintenance and personnel overtime.
Several towns reported substantial savings this week that have accrued over the winter season, which has been kind to local residents.
To date, the Warrensburg has used about 600 tons of road salt less than last year, and at $62 per ton, that's about $37,200 in savings alone.
The cost of hauling 135 or so truckloads of sand will also be saved, as well as drastic reductions in the routine winter overtime pay for eight plow truck drivers, Town Highway Superintendent Ed Pennock said.
This savings, he said, extends to wear and tear on equipment as well as fuel, which is considerably more expensive than last year.
Pennock said that total savings to taxpayers because of the light winter could total about $75,000.
"We've had a decent winter, and hopefully we can hold the line from here on," he said. "But this is assuming we don't have any surprise spring snowstorms - I've seen a couple of good April doozies before."
The Town of Horicon usually buys 900 tons of salt, but this year, their highway crews have only spread only 375 tons over the 203.5 lane-miles that they plow, town Highway Superintendent Paul Smith said. Last February alone, the town spent $18,000 on salt and sand, he said.
Savings on salt and sand this winter over an average season amounts to $12,000 to $15,000, he said. Savings on personnel overtime costs, he estimated, could be an additional $10,000 to $12,000.
The Town of Lake George also had substantial savings, despite their mere 37.1 lane-miles of roadway they clear.
The light winter meant a savings of $11,500 on salt, plus $1,200 to $3,000 on overtime, and a $6,500 reduction in fuel costs, Lake George Superintendent of Highways Hollis Ovitt said. Last year, the Lake George plow crews were out 23 times, compared to this year's 16, he said.
"If it holds like it is, we'll be fine," Ovitt said.
In the town of Chester, savings are more dramatic, because of the extensive miles of highway the employees plow.
Chester Highway Superintendent Gary Clark said Monday his crew has 110 miles of roadway to plow, and they use an average of 1,200 tons of salt, a figure that can go upwards to 1,800 if a winter is rough.
This year, however, his crew only used 800 tons, representing a savings of about $14,000. Fuel used for the winter road clearing was only 4,000 gallons, down from an average of 9,500 gallons. At $2.40 per gallon, that's $13,200 saved this year. Overtime in winter 2009 was about 133 hours per crew member, and with 11 on duty, that amounted to 1,463 hours, or $36,575. An average year, however, Clark said, averages 200 hours per man, or $55,000 or so in total.
"This has been a very good winter, budget-wise," he said.