Derry in Good Shape for Coming Winter Weather

Derry is in good shape for winter, providing the weather forecasters are correct.

Meteorologists have predicted a 2014-15 winter that is less snowy than last year, but with colder than normal temperatures. With that prediction Mike Fowler, director of Derry Public Works, said he has enough salt and sand to apply to the roads, but he could use a few more people behind the plows.

The Old Farmers Almanac stated that winter is expected to be colder than normal, with near-normal precipitation and below-normal snowfall. The coldest periods are predicted for mid- and late December, early and mid-January, and mid- to late February. The snowiest periods will be in mid- to late November, mid- and late December, and early to mid-March.

“The good news,” Fowler said, “is that in this fiscal year budget, we haven’t spent any of the money we appropriated.” Fowler ex-plained that Derry runs on a “fiscal year” budget, with the budget year beginning July 1 and ending June 30, so his snow-and-ice melting funds haven’t yet been touched.

“Other towns run on an annual budget, with the budget year starting in January,” he explained. “So by January, February and March, in a rough winter, their line items have already been expended.” And their salt sheds are empty.

While last year’s severe winter depleted Fowler’s supplies, he has the money to refill his sheds, he said. “We have ordered 3,000 tons of salt,” he said. “At $50 a ton, that’s $150,000 of salt.”

The price for salt has remained fairly stable, Fowler said. Two years ago it was $56.34 and in 2007-08 it was $58 a ton, so it is down $8 per ton, he said, which is a “fortunate break” for Derry.

Derry keeps its salt prices low by piggybacking on the state Department of Transportation (DOT) contract, allowing it to receive the state bulk price, he said.

Derry doesn’t use a lot of sand, Fowler said, noting, “With the way our traffic is, we’ve found salt much more effective.” He budgets $10,000 to $15,000 for sand and orders 1,000 to 1,500 tons, at $10 a ton. He doesn’t stockpile sand, he said, noting, “It’s more of an on-demand thing.”

But he could use a couple of extra hands behind the plow truck wheels. “For the first time in 10 years, we are looking for plowing contractors,” Fowler said. Several long-time contractors have said they would not be available this year, and he’s had to put out an ad.

“The contractors have a significant investment up front, with their equipment, and there’s no guarantee they’ll reap the benefit,” Fowler said.

He’s losing five contractors from his roster, he said, and he’s looking to sign on some replacements.

If he doesn’t find new contractors, he’ll shuffle routes and use more of his own people and plows, he said. “We have 30 pieces of equipment in-house. It’s usually a hybrid, half us, half the contractors,” he said.

Fowler said there are usually 20 to 24 trucks out on any given storm, and of those, eight to nine are contracted help. Some are sole proprietors, while others, such as American Excavating, are large companies, he said.

Those interested in plowing for the town may contact Fowler at 432-6144.