SANDOWN – In addition to 88 miles of road, most of it two lanes, the Sandown Highway Department is responsible for all town-owned parking lots, both North and Central Schools, the town’s multiple recreation and conservation areas, and all of the intersections and cul-de-sacs within those miles.
Like highway departments across the region, that work has kept drivers out for hours on end, day after day, in recent weeks. But Sandown public works director Artie Genualdo said that so far the season is going well, given all the variables.
Starting with the town’s calendar year budget start date of Jan. 1, $112,617 has been spent in the plow line. Salt costs are at $51,596 and sand at $2,702.
The budget for 2014 goes to voters with $150,000 in the plow line, $85,000 in the salt line and $4,500 in the sand line, about level from 2013.
But with multiple storms last week, those numbers don’t show the full picture of how much the season is costing the town to keep the roads clear and safe, as it takes time for all of the bills to come through.
Catching up with Genualdo between storms last week, he was busy working on equipment to get it ready for the next storm. He noted that there haven’t been major equipment failures, but things are routinely Band-Aided as the season progresses. Twenty-four hours of work at a stretch isn’t easy on driver or equipment, he noted.
On Wednesday and Thursday of last week, Genualdo’s crew was out winging back encroaching snow and cleaning out cul-de-sacs, intersections and corners to prepare for more snow to come.
The roads and intersections have been getting narrower as the inches fall, Genualdo explained. “We’re doing the best we can,” he said.
In all of the work the highway department does through the year, snow removal and road clearing take precedence. So as the snow removal dollars are going out the door, Genualdo is looking into the future to see where other projects or work can be curtailed to make up that difference. It was the same with last year’s heavy winter – summer projects were abbreviated because money allotted for certain projects needed to go to snow removal activity instead.
After the winter budgets are spent, Genualdo will dip into the annual highway block grant, but usually that money is earmarked for other projects.
A major concern for Genualdo as the season progresses is with keeping enough salt on hand to battle the ice and snow pack. With just 100 tons of storage and a salt shortage across the Northeast, Genualdo is concerned.
But last week as the temperature warmed, the department got a break, as the sun helped clear the pavement back to black, to be cleaned up again soon when the snows fly again before the year is out.