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Williamstown Facing Snow and Ice Spending Overage

By Stephen Dravis
Williamstown Correspondent
06:01PM / Friday, February 14, 2014
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A Williamstown Department of Public Works employee clears the sidewalk on Simonds Road on Friday morning.
WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. — This week's snow figures to have the town facing a deficit in its snow and ice removal budget for the third time in four years.
 
Town Manger Peter Fohlin warned the Selectmen and Finance Committee on Monday that the town was already running slightly over the $166,863 it budgeted for those efforts with much of winter to come.
 
On Thursday and Friday, it came.
 
"This storm could put us over $200,000," Fohlin said in an email Friday morning. "With snow continuing to fall and cleanup still ahead, it is difficult to say how much this storm will cost."
 
In fiscal 2011, the town spent more than twice the amount budgeted for snow and ice. Expenses ran more than $380,000. Last year, overage was about $108,000.
 
Massachusetts General Law allows municipalities to overspend for snow and ice removal with the difference made up in the tax rate the following year, Fohlin explained.
 
In other words, if Williamstown taxpayers want the proposed 2.5 percent tax increase in Fohlin's FY15 budget to stay where it is, they should hope the groundhog was wrong and spring is nearing.
 
Of some concern to town and city officials throughout Berkshire County is the threat of shortages of road salt.
 
"Heavy demand in the Northeast has now been compounded by unexpected demand in the South," Fohlin said.
 
"Commercial plowers have been shut off at the Port of Albany by International Salt, who is reserving supplies for state and municipal customers. Most road salt is coming from Chile, so it is difficult to increase supply quickly."
 
The silver lining: the town is using less salt and more sand, which could help the bottom line.

Tags: DPW,   fiscal 2015,   snowstorm,   town budget,   

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