CORVALLIS, Ore. – The Public Works Department of Corvallis spent about $100,000 during last week’s storm – a large dent in its annual budget.
Corvallis saw snow on the ground for a week, but as Mary Steckel, the Public Works Director explains, it was a dry snow that became compact when stepped or driven on. The weather brought slippery roads, and city plows and sanders were working around the clock to keep roads safe.
One Oregon State University student who got into a car crash on the first day of snow, Nick Srstka, is from South Dakota. He says he is frustrated with the lack of city snow removal.
“We would get a foot of snow overnight, and if it stopped snowing early enough, a fleet of plows would be out in the middle of the night and the roads would be clear by morning,” he said.
But at the same time, Srstka says he understands how it could be a waste of tax dollars to be as prepared as crews in the Midwest. And the City says Corvallis just does not see the same amount of snow as other areas.
“We don’t have a snow and ice removal budget because typically there are just short events that we can deal with routinely,” Steckel said.
But that doesn’t mean the City does not have a plan when there is snow.
“There’s a certain amount of preparation that you do, but you do it much closer to the time of the event,” Steckel said. “And you don’t have the capacity within the budgets we have to have a full-blown ready-to-go crew just waiting for the snow to fall.”
Steckel says Public Works monitors the weather, and when it expects stormy weather, crews will prepare their vehicles and be ready to work as soon as the storm hits. But because it does not have an unlimited budget, the City only has four plow vehicles that crews can also use for sanding.
But last week, crews were working nonstop for seven days. The cost for the street maintenance? Steckel estimates between $45,000 – 60,000.
Steckel says last week, the city also received about 100 calls from people whose water meters or pipes had broken. Steckel estimates that the cost of those repairs are around $30,000, including the cost of wages for the crews.
Last week’s cleanup may have put a dent in the city’s budget after crews plowed and sanded the roads, but now the city faces another task: cleaning up the gravel that is still on the roads.
“Now that we’ve got all the sand on the street and the snow has melted, we need to go back and clean that up and get it off the streets so bicyclists and others aren’t being damaged by it,” Steckel said. “And we’re predicting that that will cost another $23,000.”
In total, the Public Works Department is looking at a total of $100,000.
Annually, the Public Works Department spends $975,000 for street maintenance, and last week’s $70,000 of storm cleanup is taking a big portion of that.
Steckel says the Department will have to take a close look at its budget for the rest of the fiscal year, which ends in July. If it is unable to find savings, it will have to reduce services in other street maintenance programs.
“In the spring time we have a lot of contracts for street maintenance,” Steckel said, “Where we’re either repaving the street surface or we’re putting a slurry seal down or a crack seal down. And those are significant contracts that we let every spring. And this spring we might have to reduce those.”
In the meantime, the City is looking at ways to improve its response system for future storms.
“We’re starting to look into, as a part of our debriefing process on the storm event, is what other weather equipment might be appropriate for future weather events like this,” Steckel said.
Anyone can contact the Public Works Department with suggestions at: firstname.lastname@example.org