Winter weather takes toll on County operators and budget

Feb 17, 2015

The weekend’s harsh winter weather kept many residents off area roads, while county plow trucks rolled non-stop.

Snow plowing in Metro Buffalo region.
Credit WBFO News file photo

Deputy Commissioner of Highways, Bill Geary, says a lot of extra miles were put on county equipment, and that means operators have had a long haul, too.

“The men and women that operate them have been beyond what they probably signed up for. But everybody’s holding up, we could definitely use a reprieve, get some temperatures above freezing hopefully soon. So hopefully mother nature cooperates here, relatively quickly,” said Geary.

This week’s forecast may offer that reprieve, as temperatures are expected to reach into the 20's by the weekend. Geary says the demanding schedule during the winter keeps operators and mechanics away from their families for extended periods. Through it all, he says they are the ultimate professionals.

Trying to predict how much salt will get used in a given season is a struggle, according to Geary, especially since that determination is made in the middle of summer.

“You’re taking a big gamble. The budget always anticipates a little bit higher. I think right now we’re going to be relatively inside those parameters, but if we get a sustained winter through March we may have to look at that and the budget director’s not going to be liking what I’ve got to tell him,” Geary said.

The salt budget is reset at the beginning of September each year, so early snow in the fall won’t affect this year’s allotment. Geary says the county's savings due to declining costs for diesel fuel are helping supplement the added cost in salt. He says diesel is the county’s next biggest expense in fighting snow.