City close to maxing out $7.3M snow-removal budget

The Department of Public Works’ full snow-removal force will be on the streets at least through 11 p.m. Tuesday, as the city moves closer to maxing out its budget for clearing ice, slush and the white stuff.

DPW’s full budget for snow removal this year was set at $7.3 million, after several years when the full annual cost averaged $5.5 million, said Lesley Gordon, public information officer for the department.

However, for just the first 10 days of 2014, the city estimates that it spent $5.1 million of the snow-removal budget—principally for the “polar vortex” storm that paralyzed the city Jan. 5-8.

The city called on a fleet of about 300 contractors to bolster the efforts of DPW workers over two 12-hour shifts on Jan. 5 and 6. The city has ballparked the cost at $1 million per shift, based on contractors’ help in previous snow emergencies.

It's not immediately clear how much the city is spending currently for the most recent snowfall, but DPW is close to reaching the end of its $7.3 million budget, Gordon said. However, snow removal will continue regardless.

“It’s not necessarily a shut-down situation,” Gordon said. “We’ll maintain the streets throughout the winter. Our goal is public safety.”

There are several options for making up the difference, if the city blows past its budget. The department likely would look first at its general fund, Gordon said.

Mayor Greg Ballard also has requested disaster-assistance funds from the federal government to help cover the city’s costs during the polar vortex storm.

On Monday night, DPW’s full force of about 90 snow-removal vehicles hit the streets to handle the latest snowfall. They were scheduled for two consecutive 12-hour shifts, ending at 11 p.m. Tuesday, Gordon said.

DPW's Indy Snow Force consists of a fleet of 106 vehicles and 180 drivers, according to the city's website.

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