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Cold cost

Greenfield snow removal budget nearing limit

Snow reduces this image to almost black and white of the East Deerfield Rail Yard on Wednesday.  Recorder/Paul Franz

Snow reduces this image to almost black and white of the East Deerfield Rail Yard on Wednesday. Recorder/Paul Franz Purchase photo reprints »

GREENFIELD — The town’s Department of Public Works is asking for permission to deficit spend as its director anticipates its budget snow and ice budget will soon reach and exceed the $200,000 allotted for road treatments and plowing this year.

Public Works Director Arthur Baker said it is not unusual for a town to spend more than it budgets for snow and ice, especially during a bad winter with a lot of snowfall.

Baker said the town has already seen about 44 to 60 inches of snow this year, not atypical for this point in the season. That is not counting the snow that fell Tuesday and may fall today. He said $170,000 has already been spent.

“We only treat the roads when we get under 2 inches,” said Baker. “Anything above and we’re out plowing.”

Baker said it costs the town about $6,000 to treat the roads, including sand, salt, liquid de-icer and plowing, each time there is a snowfall over 2 inches.

He said the town has used 1,700 tons of sand so far this winter, 1,600 tons of salt and 5,000 gallons of de-icer.

This year, sand costs $8.50 per ton, so the town had spent $14,450 before Tuesday’s storm on sand. Salt costs $58.78 per ton, so the town had spent $94,048. And de-icer costs $1.20 per gal, so the town had spent $6,000 on that before Tuesday.

Baker said that means the town has spent about $115,000 alone on treatments. He said the $200,000 also has to cover the cost of overtime and fuel, as well as repairs and maintenance of vehicles.

“We’ve had seven plowing events and we’ve treated the road 24 times so far,” said Baker before his crews began working on Tuesday’s storm.

He said public works had cleaned the center of town during overnight hours six times before Tuesday’s storm, which means overtime for employees. He expected that would happen at least once this week.

Baker said during a typical, smaller storm, there are 16 plows clearing Greenfield roads. He said during a large storm, like the most recent one before Tuesday, there were 23 vehicles, including backhoes and loaders, on Greenfield roads.

“We also spent last weekend removing snow from the downtown area,” he said.

The snow and ice budget is the only budget the town can approve to overspend. The town makes the difference up the following year. Baker’s request will require approval of Town Council.

Tuesday’s snow

Although Tuesday’s snowstorm was one of the milder ones this month in terms of snowfall, it more than measured up in terms of car wrecks.

Tuesday’s snow may not have been deep, but it was slick.

Emergency dispatchers had their hands full Tuesday afternoon, sending ambulances, police and firefighters to a slew of near-simultaneous accidents in Leyden, Montague, Shelburne and Shelburne Falls between 2:30 and 3 p.m.

The morning had its share of accidents, too, with crashes reported on Route 112 in Ashfield and Interstate 91 in Deerfield.

One person was taken to Baystate Franklin Medical Center with minor injuries following a head-on accident on Route 2 in Shelburne, according to dispatchers.

State Police Sgt. Steven Jankowski said troopers from the Shelburne barracks responded to a few accidents, but none that involved injuries.

With two major storms earlier this month each bringing about a foot of snow to Greenfield, some have wondered whether this season’s snowfall has been above average.

It has, but only slightly.

From December through Tuesday morning, Greenfield had seen 43.9 inches of snow. The average December-February total was 38.24 for the last eight winters.

The most snow in that time came in the winter of 2007 to 2008. That season saw 63.6 inches of snow. The mildest winter in recent memory came in the 2011-2012 season, with a paltry 7 inches all falling in January.

With a little more than a week left in February, this winter still has a chance to exceed the mark.

By press time Tuesday, the latest storm measured slightly less than two inches on the Recorder’s ruler, bringing the total to about 46 inches.

We could have another 1 to 3 inches on the ground by the time you read Thursday’s Recorder. Tonight’s forecast calls for flurries.

By the end of the week, though, some of that snow should be gone. The forecast calls for highs above freezing for the rest of the week, getting up to 40 today and peaking at 47 on Friday before the mercury drops again. Snow showers were forecast for Sunday, with a high temperature of 30 degrees.

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