The Herald, Sharon, Pa.

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March 28, 2014

From plowing to potholes

Winter overtime ate up $3,900 over budget

SHARON — Even though spring has been chilly, you’re not the only one happy that winter is over.

The guys responsible for removing snow from city streets in Sharon are happy that it’s over, too.

John Cave, foreman of the street department, says the one-two punch of frequent snowstorms and long stretches of sub-zero cold made this winter a memorable one among the 25 he has worked as a city employee.

“We’ve had winters with more snow, but when you put the snowfall together with cold temperatures, it was a hard winter on everybody,” he said.

Cave said the department’s six full-time and three part-time employees sometimes felt like they were living in their trucks.

The city has seven trucks with salt spreaders and plows and a pickup with a plow to tend 57 miles of streets and 26 miles of alleys.

“When the snow is falling, we concentrate on the hills, main streets and intersections,’’ Cave said. “After the snow stops, it takes eight to 12 hours to plow the whole city.”

State Street can be a challenge because it is PennDOT’s responsibility as a state road. City crews do the best they can knowing that PennDOT gives first priority to interstates 80 and 79.

“They’re shorthanded too,” Cave said of PennDOT.

Looking ahead to next winter, Cave said he’ll be working with City Manager Scott Andrejchak to find ways to improve snow removal in the downtown shopping district, where high piles of melting snow interfered with parking.

“We’re thinking about using a Bobcat to load snow into trucks so we can haul it out if we have to,” he said. “We try to do what we can to help the businesses out.”

Plowing snow costs a lot of money for wages and overtime, fuel and materials, said Ken Griffith, finance director for both the city and Sharon Sanitary Authority. He keeps track of the city budget.

“On a seasonal basis from November to March we were about 27 percent over budget for overtime,” he said. “We’ll have to watch carefully but that only amounts to about $3,900 so I don’t think we’ll have to cut any corners as we move ahead.”

The city never ran out of salt, but supplies throughout the region ran short in February. Cities and towns had to wait until suppliers could catch up with demand.

Sharon got its final two deliveries late and received them within the last 10 days, Griffith said.

Late snow is part of life in western Pennsylvania. There could be more plowing but Cave said his crews have turned to their perennial spring work – filling potholes.

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