Snowed under: Lambton’s 2014 budget tapped out

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If you needed proof that this was an unusual winter, just look at the Lambton County Road budget.

By the end of February, the public works department spent $1.7 million on snow removal. That’s 81 percent of the budget for the entire year.

And that doesn’t include the big snowstorm in early March which saw road crews clearing waist high drifts from main county roads.

“This winter has been anything but average,” says Jim Kutyba, general manager of infrastructure and development in a report to council. “Public Works operations staff have worked steadily since early December, 2013 to maintain a safe driving environment on the County Road System…As a result, the budget developed for the three-year average winter has taken a beating thus far in 2014.”

Kutyba added the county has “far exceeded” the estimates for March in the first two weeks.

With only $385,000 left in the 2014 snow removal budget, county staff estimated another $825,000 will be needed to clear snow next winter.

Much of that cash will come from a reserve budget. Some will come by delaying public works projects.

But county councilors were concerned about taking money out of road repairs.

Plympton-Wyoming Mayor Lonny Napper says the heavy frost is wreaking havoc on the roads and the county may have the reassess what needs repairs.

“You may have to defer a lot more (planned) projects,” he says. “If you go down Churchill Line or Oil Heritage Road, they’re filled with potholes. This year is a very emergency situation. If those roads are not dealt with, we’re going to lose them. I think the whole road situation has to be reassessed.”

Kutyba says the county can reassess some of its projects, but a tough winter like this year will cause problems. Kutyba says the county spends about $10 million a year on projects, most of which comes from the federal gas tax. “We are not gaining on our roads so we do not need a year like this year,” he says.

“Road work is not getting cheaper…it’s eating away at those fixed dollars that roughly $10 million we put in each year.”

We do have some flexibility in our projects…we will reassess them when it thaws out – in August.”

 

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