Weather takes toll on Public Works budget

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FARMINGTON — Snow, ice, a polar vortex and summer rains this year have taken a toll on the Public Works Department’s budget.

The department is over budget $96,000, or about 9 percent, for the year, with two weeks left, Town Manager Richard Davis told selectmen Tuesday.

State law allows public works departments to run up to 15 percent over budget because of unpredictable weather, he said Wednesday.

Davis notified the board because the amount will need to be ratified by voters at the March town meeting, he said.

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During recent storms, the department has spent $24,000 on salt, and winter is not here yet, Davis said.

The last storm was five days, Denis Castonguay, Public Works director, told the board. Crews had to be out through most of it because of icing.

It means more money for overtime, fuel, equipment repair and utilities because the garage is open nights and weekends, he said.

Storm washouts in July cost over $28,000, and road patching on Wilton Road in May and June was $20,000. That was the whole road maintenance budget, he said.

His crew worked nights and in rain this summer, trying to repair the roads, he said.

Board members commended the crew for their work and said they understand why there is an overdraft.

“I’ll have no problem defending this overdraft at town meeting,” Chairman Ryan Morgan said.

The board also reviewed the cost and time the department spent watering and tending downtown flower pots over the summer. The cost during the 57 days was $1,049. 

The board approved the flower care last May with an estimated $1,400 tab and the understanding that they would review the costs before next summer.

Davis brought the information to the board prior to the start of work on the budget to decide whether to include plant care in the department’s proposed budget.

Speaking for the Downtown Association, Gloria McGraw told the board the group would not spend over $700 on plants again if the town could not water them. The flower pots are attached to the downtown light poles.

The group tried to take care of them one year, but the flowers were dead by July, she said. If people like them, then let the crew tend them, she said.

Castonguay predicted that drier summers might cost more.

The board agreed to continue the work.

abryant@sunjournal.com

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