HARVARD/DEVENS/SHIRLEY -- After the towns battled a series of winter storms, snow budgets throughout Nashoba Valley towns are drying up.
Shirley's Department of Public Works overspent $26,000 on its snow and ice budget, although Shirley Town Administrator Patrice Garvin said overspending is a yearly occurrence.
"Obviously, if you're over budget it's always a concern for the town. But given the history, I believe this is something that we deal with every year," Garvin said. "We'll work through it -- it's not a surprise."
The town has used free cash to fill its deficits in the past, and Shirley might do the same again this year.
Despite the deficit, Garvin said the town's snow-removal team performs at one of the highest levels in the state.
"We have three very experienced DPW employees," she said. "They've seen everything, they've been through everything, and they're more than capable of handling anything that nature throws our way."
Nearby, Devens has not overspent its budget but is approaching its $60,000 limit.
Devens has spent about 90 percent of its snow budget, said DPW Director David Blazon. This year's winter has been odd, with an uncommon number of ice storms, he said.
"When it's snowing, I just have drivers and plow trucks pushing snow to the side," Blazon said. "I'm not putting material down, which costs money."
The storms on nights, weekends and holidays have taxed the department's overtime budget, which is about 70 percent spent.
The department battles against snow with its own employees, and does not hire outside contracting services to clear the snow.
"By doing it this way, we're able to save a lot of money while other cities and towns actually do contract the services out," Blazon said.
The department will probably end up going over budget if there is a lot of snow in February, Blazon said, though he said he already has tons of salt that could be used for the next storm.
"If Mother Nature's kind to us over the next two months, I should be able to make it down very close to coming out on budget," he said.
Winter has not been overwhelming this year for Harvard's Public Works Department, said DPW Director Richard Nota.
"There hasn't been that crippling storm that pushes you beyond your equipment and manpower," Nota said.
Ice has hit hard in Harvard, too though, making removal harder for DPW workers.
"Harvard is somewhat unique from other towns in that we're very treed, meaning the sun does not get the opportunity to warm the pavement up," Nota said.
Harvard's 10 full-time employees plow 65 miles of road, averaging 6.5 miles each. Like Devens, Harvard also does not contract out plowing services for snow removal.
Nota said the department has spent about 80 percent of its snow budget, including all $112,000 allocated specifically for sand and salt. Weekend weather has also amounted to overtime spending on winter operations, which has a budget of $43,500 this fiscal year.
"If it's a mild winter, you don't spend it, if it's a heavy winter you do," he said. "People understand that you have no control over it."
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