ITHACA, N.Y. — The lack of snow in Ithaca this December is giving city workers time to focus on projects left over from the summer –such as repairing potholes and replacing guardrails — but does that mean the city will wind up with more money than expected?
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“This, I think, has only happened twice now,” Ray Benjamin, assistant superintendent of streets and facilities, said about the snow-less December so far. He’s been working with the city in various roles for about 25 years.
Not a trace of snowfall has happened this month and high temperatures could break the record for warmest December in Ithaca ever.
Usually by the week before Thanksgiving, Benjamin said, five snowplow drivers are working overnight to free the roads of snow and ice. The drivers typically stay on plow duty until April.
Benjamin said that this drastically slow start to the season has left workers with the chance to do other projects they didn’t quite get to start this summer or fall.
For instance, he said this is only the second time he can remember that workers have been able to clear leaves out of every street in the city. And crews have been working to fill in potholes and replace guardrails as needed.
“It’s a little bit of a slower time for us. It’s just not quite as hectic,” he said.
That doesn’t necessarily translate to more money for the city, though.
Benjamin said there are too many variables to consider this early in the season to determine if the lack of snow will save the city money.
Yes, he said, less drivers on the road using less gas and salt seems like it saves cash in the short-term.
But he said that even if snow is less than normal this winter, the city is still contracted to purchase 60 percent of pre-ordered salt for roads. The city can keep about 3,000 tons of salt on-hand and usually uses about 2,400 tons a season. Better safe than sorry, Benjamin said about the surplus, because prices skyrocket for ordering salt outside of a contract.
He also said that regardless of what forecasts say, there’s no guarantee that snow will continue to be sparse throughout the season.
“We may have a real rough March,” he said. “It’s not over yet. It’s just starting.”
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