Plowing, snow removal wreak havoc on city overtime budget

Mother Nature is causing havoc with the city budget, a city administrator said Tuesday during a public works committee meeting.

The cost to pay city plow truck operators their overtime due them nearly has surpassed the $52,000 overtime budget, while a $63,000 budget for buying salt and cinders has been exceeded by about $11,000, or 17 percent, said William C. Wright, general manager of the city Streets and Parks Department.

“The plows go out when there is as much as 1 1/2 inches of snow accumulation,” he said. “By the time we add storms not calculated into the next pay we’re going to be maxed out.”

The unionized employees work up to 40 hours per week before getting time and a half or double-time. Overtime kicks in if they work from midnight to 7 a.m., 3:30 p.m. to midnight or on Saturdays and Sundays, Wright said.

“You’re dealing with a union contract,” he said. “We try not to work anybody more than two shifts.”

Such expenses aren’t expected to grind the plow trucks to a halt or lead to the salt shed going empty.

“We can’t let the streets unplowed and not salt and cindered,” said Councilman N. Clifford “Skip” Smith, committee chairman.

Wright has counted at least 10 plowable snowstorms and ordered enough salt, tons of it, to last through the winter but he’s also thinking about December’s costs, too.

The 50 miles of alleys also will continue to be cleared once the main and secondary streets are done, Wright said.

Some of the alleys are paved and built into the formula the city uses to determine how much money it receives from liquid fuels funding, which is derived from tax on gas at the pumps.

Contacted about the situation, council President Bill Hall said the money for paying overtime will be found without a tax increase being necessary.

The budget will be reviewed in September and October and a transfer ordinance will be done to move money into the account to pay the workers, Hall said.