While Soldotna’s fiscal climate is becoming tight, the actual climate is providing some relief.
Due to a lack of snow, the city of Soldotna is currently under budget for its snow removal service.
Scott Sundberg, city of Soldotna maintenance department manager, said that approximately $100,000 is budgeted annually for the purpose of hauling snow. Of that money, $80,000 pays for fees associated with contracted trucks, while $20,000 is designated for the snow disposal facility.
“So far, this year, we’ve spent $10,111.70 in truck fees out of a potential $80,000,” Sundberg said. “There’s still $70,000 out there.”
While the budget looks good to date, Sundberg is still aware of the potential for more snow this season. He said that in the past, the city has exceeded the $100,000 budget and there have been instances where the snow-hauling bill has been up to $13,000 in a day.
“This year we’re looking good,” Sundberg said. “But March could come out like a lion, and we could go through that budget.”
Sundberg said that if there is extra money leftover from the budget, it gets returned to the city’s general fund.
While this winter has seen less snow, the wet weather has caused icy roads. Sundberg said that the city has used more sand to keep the roads safe.
“We are sanding more,” he said. “This year and last. There have been times where we’re running two sanders in a day trying to keep up with the ice.”
Sundberg said that in years past, the city would purchase 500 cubic yards of sand annually, but more recently the city started buying 1,000 cubic yards. While sand comes from a different line item in the city’s budget, Sundberg said that no sand was purchased this winter, due to surplus. He said the city has approximately 2,500 cubic yards of sand in reserves.
“We’re not going to run out of sand,” Sundberg said.
Because the city isn’t preoccupied with clearing snow, Sundberg said there is time to catch up on some indoor projects, including replacing the bay lights in some city buildings and rebuilding the server room in city hall.
While the lack of snow has had some benefits, not everything is rosy.
Sundberg said the wet winter has caused some electrical damage to some city streetlights, while some storm drains have needed opening.
The lack of snow has also made the city rethink how it utilizes studs on its vehicles. To prolong the life of its tires, Sundberg said that many of the city’s vehicles are currently operated without studs.
“You have pavement — the last two winters the state and us keep the highways and roads pretty clear, and now you’re running studs for four, five, six months,” Sundberg said. “Three of those months, you’re running those on pavement and your studs wear out.”
While there have been some small issues, Sundberg said overall, the lack of snow and the wet winter hasn’t been a big issue. He said ultimately, the weather decides many issues.
“You budget the best you can, and Mother Nature runs the show,” Sundberg said.
Reach Ian Foley at firstname.lastname@example.org.