Winter Storms Bust County, Town Budgets

The high number of storms this winter have drained municipal budgets for snow removal.

By Christie Duffy

The state has spent more on snow removal this winter than during any in recent memory, with more than $106 million plowed into clearing state roads after winter storms, as salt levels remain a concern.

“We’re still at uncomfortably low levels, we’re not at where we want to be at,” said Steve Schapiro of the Department of Transportation.

Counties and municipalities around the state are busting their budgets on winter cleanup costs.

Morris County has gone over its snow budget by about 30 percent, spending $4.6 million on manpower and materials like salt.

Essex County has gone about 9 percent over budget, spending $3.8 million.

And Camden County has gone about 10 percent over budget this winter, with about $1.1 million spent on snow removal, not including this latest storm.

“This will be our 15th storm down here in South Jersey. I couldn’t tell you how much salt. I mean thousands of tons of salt. I mean we’ve went through our salt supply three times already,” said Ian Leonard of the Camden County DPW.

And replenishing the salt supply has also cost Camden County. At this point in the winter, with demand being so high, they’re paying upwards of $80 a ton. That’s compared to $50 a ton, earlier in the season.

“We paid a lot more. But salt’s at a premium, it’s not just us, it’s state government, local government,” Leonard said.

In Essex County, they’ve been forced to cover the cost of cleanup by using money from other items in the budget.

“We have $1.8 million in reserves. We think we’re gonna be fine for this year, getting through it, but we’re still right now, we are over budget,” said Essex County Executive Joe DiVincenzo.

Towns too are feeling the pinch. In Toms River, overtime and salt costs have sent them 60 percent over budget.

Warren County has gone nearly 40 percent over its salt budget. And Cape May has blown through double the amount of salt used in a typical winter.

The next big expense? Pothole repair. The state says they’ve filled 90,000 so far this winter.

“We have two crews that are out there. We’ve already filled 15,000 potholes but there are so many more potholes that needs to be done because the winter has been so bad,” DiVincenzo said.

Asphalt is in high demand. And there have been some early reports of shortages. But regional supplier Walden Asphalt says they’re keeping up as counties are looking to fill up.

“We have crews working 24 hours a day when it’s not snowing. Which is very rare here that we don’t get a snowstorm at least once a week,” Leonard said.