Snow shortfall makes for budget surplus at local street departments

Street departments across Northern Indiana and Southwest Michigan are breathing easier thanks to an unseasonably warm winter.

Such balmy weather brought less snowfall and, in turn, has saved local municipalities hundreds of thousands of dollars combined.

On average, Mishawaka’s fleet of 13 plows clears 25 measurable snowfalls each winter. This season however, it handled a mere 13 occasions where snow totaled one inch or more.

"We felt lucky. The city was good and I think everybody around us felt a little lucky too. Salt companies aren't so happy though,” Mishawaka Street Department commissioner Mike Watson said.

After all, Mishawaka maintains a budget of $224,000 every year for its roadway salt. But for the first time, in a long time, half of the city’s original winter salt order went untouched. Add in fewer overtime hours and the savings are considerable, $110,000 in the Princess City alone.

The news is almost as good in Goshen where its street department is sitting on $75,000 in additional funding. Meantime, officials in St. Joseph, Mich. told NewsCenter 16, they had a surplus of $73,000. And in Plymouth; city leaders netted $65,000 more than they expected.

Beyond those numbers are added trickle-down savings, like spending less on diesel fuel to fill snow plows, a reduction in police overtime hours thanks to fewer accidents and a dramatic decrease in the routine task of spring pothole duty.

"We also saved our equipment a little more. We didn't have to be out there pounding the road to death everyday. So that adds-up too for repairs,” Watson added.

It's worth noting, a lot of the savings won't necessarily be seen until next year. That's because cities like Mishawaka can't return their excess salt. Instead they'll stockpile it for winter 2012-13.

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