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DPW superintendents offer differing perspectives on winter’s impact on their budgets

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POTSDAM — Potsdam Department of Public Works Superintendent Bruce J. Henderson said he realizes winter is off to a rough start, but he’s not worried about going over budget, noting the law of averages usually comes into play.

“I always tell everybody, ‘Wait until April and we’ll talk about the budget then,’” he said.

That being said, Mr. Henderson acknowledged the area has seen a tough winter so far. “We’ve had a little bit more than usual, but it’s all about the law of averages,” he said. “Our budget will cover our expenses. I’m not worried about going over budget.”

When asked if the village budgets liberally in case of a tough winter, he said the department actually budgets quite tightly, using averages from the past 10 to 12 years.

Mr. Henderson said he’s used to answering budget questions surrounding north country winters.

“In the past when winter has gotten off to a slow start, I say the same thing,” he said. “You never know what you’re going to get in March and February.”

In Massena, DPW Superintendent Hassan A. Fayad said he is worried about exceeding his budget, but that’s something he worries about every year.

“That’s a worry of mine whether it’s a mild winter or not, but with the winter we’ve had so far, this is an issue I’m concerned with,” he said.

Mr. Fayad, who grew up in the area, called the 2013-14 winter “old-fashioned.”

“It’s an old-fashioned 1970s winter,” he said. “And we’re just getting started. Hopefully we’ll skate through this OK.”

Mr. Fayad said his department always budgets for a moderate winter and at this point, he too is hoping for the law of averages to come into play.

With warmer weather expected this weekend, Mr. Fayad said his crews likely won’t have to plow, but with all of the accumulated ice and snow, the warm weather, he said, is going to present another set of challenges, noting the river’s water levels will rise and some streets may end up flooded, and people could end up with water in their basements.

“It’s a different set of challenges, but we’re in winter mode and we’ll do our best to mitigate them,” he said.

Helping to make management of the budget easier is a provision in the contract that allows Mr. Fayad to alter the schedule as long as the employee has a nine-hour notice before the start of his shift.

“We have a great department and the employees have been great,” he said. “They have allowed us to change their shifts, which help us get through the winter with a minimal financial impact.”

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