Derry Close to Exceeding Budget for Snow Removal

The Department of Public Works is hauling salt from the Portsmouth salt piles and is close to maxing out its winter maintenance budget.

Town Administrator Galen Stearns gave a report on winter operations at the Feb. 17 Town Council meeting.

Stearns said while the statutes limit the number of hours a municipal employee can work, that limit is suspended for “snow operations” and many of the town’s Public Works employees have been going for 30 hours at a time. “It’s not only our guys but the contract workers,” he said.

Stearns added that the supervisors make sure their “guys” have rest periods and human fuel to keep them going. Superintendent of Operations Alan Cote’s wife makes big pots of chili for the chilled workers, he said.

There’s a human cost and also a financial cost, according to Stearns: “Each storm is costing us $85,000 to $100,000 for snow removal,” he said.

Quoting from a memo from Mike Fowler, Director of Public Works, Stearns said the department has been unable to receive salt deliveries and has been trucking salt from Portsmouth.

The total for three weeks for Derry has been 70 inches of snow, Fowler wrote, in snow events ranging from 1 inch to 30 inches at a time.

As of Feb. 17, Fowler wrote, the department had expended $448,655 or 73 percent of its budget for winter  maintenance. But with some invoices still pending, he wrote, he expects to expend 95 to 100 percent of his budget.

Fortunately, Fowler added, “in the five-day forecast there is a reprieve from snow.”

Council Chair Mark Osborne encouraged residents to help each other out during these times, and Stearns encouraged residents to “adopt a fire hydrant” and keep it shoveled so fire personnel can use the water in an emergency.