The Ottumwa Courier

January 13, 2014

Snow removal proving costly this winter

Courier staff writer

---- — OTTUMWA — This winter has been relatively busy for those who work to keep snow and ice off the roads, and it has also been quite costly.

Reports from around the state of Iowa list early snowfall, mixed precipitations and frigid temperatures as the causes for quite an expensive season.

The city of Dubuque and Dubuque County in east-central Iowa have reported needing to use snow removal teams more consistently this year than most. Overall, according to an article in the Dubuque Telegraph Herald, Dubuque has had 11 instances needing snow plows and salt already this season, while last winter they had less than a dozen.

Snow removal in Ottumwa is turning out to be expensive, too. According to Steve Edgington, Ottumwa’s supervisor of Public Works, because of ice, the weekend snow events and downtown snow pickup from last week, the city is spending more than normal so far this winter.

The yearly budget for snow removal in Ottumwa is $317,000, taking in account the wages of employees, equipment, fuel and materials. If snow and ice incidents continue on the snowy trend like the storms that occurred around Christmas and New Year’s, that budget could be passed.

“It just depends on how the rest of the year plays out,” Edgington said.

The lack of snow since the storm that came through on New Year’s Eve has been a little bit of a pressure relief for city workers who keep roads clear, and it has given a chance for some of the snow build-up to be removed. Last week, Public Works crews were challenged with picking up snow in the central business district of Ottumwa to try and clear up some of the sidewalks and parking lots downtown.

Although the city has seen a somewhat busier winter season than usual, Wapello County as a whole hasn’t felt the added pressure, according to County Engineer Brian Moore.

“We’ve got plenty of salt and sand left,” he said.

As for when snow removal crews will be able to put the plow trucks up until next winter, it really just depends on the weather. Edgington said they usually stop somewhere in the middle of March, but, unfortunately, snow and ice is always possible in April or May.

Let’s hope the snow stays away for the rest of this winter season, not just because it creates havoc on the roads, but because it’s already been expensive enough.

— To see reporter Josh Vardaman's Twitter feed, go to @CourierJosh