Warm winter saves east Idaho cities loads of cold cash

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Mike Price, EastIdahoNews.com

REXBURG — Global warming? Climate change? Just a warm winter? Whatever the reason, east Idaho cities have saved hundreds of thousands of dollars on snow removal this winter.

As of Monday, Idaho Falls has spent a grand total of $5,000 on snow removal. That’s out of a $525,000 budget city street division snow removal budget. All snow removal this year has been done by city employees with no need for subcontractors. The last time the city didn’t use subcontractors was in 2012, and it spent $351,000 for the city street division snow removal.

Pocatello does not have a specific line item for snow removal; however, labor, fuel and materials used for snow removal cost $152,231. That is $195,000 less than the Gate City spent last year.

Last year, Rexburg spent $46,000 on subcontractors to help with snow removal. This year the city has only spent $3,990, though Rexburg Chief Finance Officer Matt Nielson said there may be other contractors who have yet to submit their bill to the city.

Last year Idaho Falls spent $1.3 million on snow removal including subcontractor costs. That was nearly $300,000 over the entire snow removal budget.

During Monday’s Idaho Falls City Council work session there was some talk about rolling the savings over into a “snowy day” fund. However, city spokesperson Kerry Hammon told EastIdahoNews.com that won’t be decided until the council puts together a new budget sometime this spring.

Idaho Falls Public Works Director Chris Fredericksen said the city generally sets aside an average total budget of $1.1 million for snow removal. That includes city employee salaries and subcontractor costs. He said overall, the city has only spent 10 percent of the total $1.1 million budget. They have spent so little, in part, because they have not needed to use subcontractors this year.

“As we have looked at some of the average expenditures that we’ve had, we recognize in those lean years, when we have some funds that are left over, it would make sense to put those in an account and let those accrue to a certain point to where those huge fluctuations on those heavy snow years wouldn’t impact our budget as much,” Fredericksen said.

He said in recent years the city has experienced times when snow plows haven’t been needed much, but nothing like this year that he can remember.

“For instance, we’ve had sweepers the majority of this month out trying to pick up some sandy material on our streets,” Fredericksen said.” That’s something that I can’t recall happening in February where we’ve got temperatures that are above freezing that allow us to go out there and put water down and sweep up sandy material.”

Along with sweeping the streets, city street crews have even been able to put down concrete for various city projects — something they have never been able to do in February, Fredericksen said.

This story has been updated with a clarification.

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