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Ogdensburg’s salt, sand piles survive snowy December

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The city’s dwindling salt and sand reserves survived the latest snow storms, and barring a pre-New Year surprise, should last through the end of 2012.

After a fierce storm blanketed the north country this week, Department of Public Works Director Kit W. Smith said that might be due to luck more than anything else.

“We don’t use a lot of salt in this type of event because we tend to just grease things up and cause traction issues,” he said. “We use our melting accelerants after the storm. We’re just trying to get through this year. Once we get to our new budget we should be able to replenish our material.”

Blessed in recent years by milder winters with low snowfall totals, the Department of Public Works has used reserve funds to repair and maintain an aging fleet of city vehicles in lieu of replenishing salt and sand piles.

“Those reserves have been drawn down to the point where we’re going to have to replenish them,” Mr. Smith said. “Obviously, our equipment, the majority of it is very old and it takes a lot of money to keep it going.”

City Manager John M. Pinkerton said the city must use its fund for snow removal materials next year.

“We didn’t fill up the barn this year,” Mr. Pinkerton said. “In a few days, we get into the next budget and we’ll have to go ahead and fill it up.”

Each year, DPW budgets for 2,000 tons of sand and 1,500 tons of salt.

“We pretty much try to keep it equal throughout the years and we hope the winters are fairly consistent,” Mr. Smith said. “Typically, we try to keep some reserve in case we have an unusually snowy season.”

That unusually snowy season may be upon Ogdensburg, Mr. Smith said.

“We’re already about a month behind where we would be as far as material for a normal winter, so we’re hoping in 2013 that things will go back to normal based on what we normally have for a Northern New York winter,” he said.

Ogdensburg uses 18 trucks for snow removal. Two truck purchases, paid for by the city’s fund balance, have been approved for the 2012 and 2013 budget years, but that is not enough to compensate for years of deferred replacements, Mr. Smith said.

“If you don’t replace some of that yearly, it all becomes old at the same time,” he said. “These trucks are out there working every day. We get a lot out of them.”

In next year’s budget, the city’s snow removal is maintained at $279,160, its 2012 level, as part of an effort by the City Council and staff members to minimize the property tax increase.

Mr. Smith had asked for a $305,335 snow removal budget to replenish the reserve, which would have included a $3,000 increase in his budget for materials and supplies, including sand and road salt, from $55,000 to $58,000.

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