WESTPORT, Conn. — Whenever snow falls in Westport, it costs the town money. That’s why Public Works Director Steve Edwards is hoping Tuesday’s storm is one of the last of the season.
Every year, the Public Works Department is allocated a $500,000 “emergency response” budget, Edwards said. This money covers snow removal costs, as well as the cleanup of any weather-related emergencies, such as hurricanes and windstorms. By Tuesday afternoon, Edwards estimated half of this year’s emergency response budget had already been used.
“This is our fifth snow event this winter,” Edwards said of Tuesday’s storm. “During a normal winter, we typically see between seven and eight events, so I’m hoping we’re halfway through.”
When it comes to snow-removal expenses, Edwards said it’s the number of events that add up, not necessarily the size of the storms.
"Often times, it costs almost as much to clean up a 1-inch snow event as it does a 4- to 5-inch snowstorm," Edwards said.
Typically, the department uses 15 to 17 pieces of equipment to clear the town’s 123 miles of roadway, he said. In addition, contractors are called in to plow all the parking lots downtown, at the schools and the train stations.
With two months of winter still ahead, there's a real possibility that the town will go over its allotted snow removal budget for the year. While that's a concern, Edwards said public safety trumps budget restrictions.
"We go into every snow season with fixed amount. By and large, we put a target number out there, and in most cases, we run a little over," he said. "Sometimes, we run a lot over. But I’m given the authority to expend what's needed to make the roads safe. So whenever there's a storm, I don't worry about the budget. I worry about public safety."
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