Recent round of winter storms in Utah could mean snow removal efforts go over budget

Posted at 6:18 PM, Dec 30, 2015
and last updated 2015-12-30 20:18:50-05

SALT LAKE CITY -- This winter has packed a punch so far, with a rise in early season snow storms. Crews have kept busy clearing roads, and now city street departments are crunching the numbers—wondering whether they'll be able to stay within their budget.

In Bountiful, a semi pulled up to the salt shed with a fresh shipment set for scattering on the streets.

Streets Director Gary Blowers said they expected 2,000 tons would fill the shed by the end of the day. He's been keeping track of the numbers, and he said he can tell this winter's already outdoing the last.

"Right now, we're double to what we used all of last year," he said.

They've handled some gnarly storms in the past few weeks, including a two-day period where 28 inches of snow hit the ground.

He said they've already blown through 6,000 tons of salt. That doesn't count the two more storms that came in on Wednesday.

The winter budget, he said, allows for 14,000 tons—or $300,000 worth of salt. While salt takes up most of the budget, the funds also allow for overtime hours, fuel and maintenance. Based on what they've seen in the past, they could end up needing extra resources.

"We're probably pretty equal to what we were about three years ago," he said. "We went a little bit over [budget] three years ago."

UDOT's been in the same busy boat.

"It takes a little while to tally where we are," said Public Information Officer John Gleason.

While they don't have concrete numbers, he said they do budget $1 million per storm. With a budget totaling $24 million, he said, "We're not anywhere near coming close to that just yet."

So what happens when crews break the budget clearing the streets?

Cities go to their respective councils. In UDOT's case, it's the state legislature. They ask for more money, and both Blowers and Gleason said they usually get it.

"It's something that we're always aware of," Gleason said of where their budget stands throughout the winter.

They keep a close eye on the funds, in case they start to run out.

"We just never know what Mother Nature's going to throw at us," Blowers said.