Little snow brings savings

HANCOCK COUNTY — While snow flurries have been sparse this winter, local street and highway departments have seen cost savings pile up.

Less than 7 inches of snow has fallen in the area since December — more than 10 inches below the average for this time of year, according to the National Weather Service. The milder weather has translated into significant savings for local governments, which haven’t had to pay employees overtime to clear roads. Local offices also haven’t had to spend as much money on fuel and salt.

Together, the Greenfield Street Department and the Hancock County Highway Department are on track to reduce costs by $70,000 this season, which amounts to approximately 30 percent reduction in costs compared to last year’s spending.

Hancock County Engineer Gary Pool said cost savings will be put toward road repairs and repaving projects across the county.

Greenfield Street Commissioner Tyler Rankins said he, too, hopes to spend the savings on street repairs, but added a final decision on spending will have to first receive approval from city council.

Pool said so far, he’s had to pay less than half as much overtime to workers as he did at this point last year.

By sparing the amount of time the highway department’s 25 full-time employees have to spend on snow cleanup, Pool said they’ve been able to prioritize other projects, like filling potholes.

And he’d much rather put money set aside for snow cleanup toward long-term projects, like making repairs to the area’s 670 miles of county roads, he said.

The county has used about 500 fewer tons of salt than it had by this time last year, Pool said.

As a result, about 1,200 tons of salt are sitting in storage, waiting for the next big snow, said Randy Moore, superintendent of the highway department.

At $79 a ton, that adds up to more than $90,000 in unused salt, which could significantly reduce the need for future spending, he said.

While local street crews are keeping a positive outlook, Rankins said it’s possible a late round of snow will sweep through the area. Just a couple heavy snow storms could throw off the anticipated savings, he said.

“We’re holding out,” he said. “We’re really hoping winter doesn’t decide to roll around into March, but we’ll see.”

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Daniel Morgan is a reporter at the Greenfield Daily Reporter. He can be reached at (317) 477-3228 or dmorgan@greenfieldreporter.com.