LEWISTON — Five more inches of snow fell in Turner and Bethel on Sunday night and into Monday morning. Lewiston fared slightly better — just 4.5 inches — while Eustis in Franklin County gained 7.3 inches by midday.

According to the National Weather Service, Maine has a snowpack of between 20 and 30 inches to the south and west, and 30 to as much as 50 inches to the coast and north. Much of the precipitation has accumulated in the past three weeks.

Municipal plow drivers are exhausted; salt and sand supplies are being depleted and overtime budgets for snow removal are taking a beating.

The snowfall over the past three weeks is more than the total accumulation during six of the past 16 winters. In 2001-02, the snowfall total was 33 inches for the winter, and in 2009-10, it was 37 inches total. That’s far less than the 47 inches that have fallen in and around Lewiston since Jan. 27.

Even with the recent deluge, town managers and public works directors aren’t feeling terribly snowed under by winter road expenditures — yet.

In Lewiston, the Public Works Department has expended 47 percent of its winter overtime payroll. On Feb. 4 of last year, 95 percent of that same budget had been spent and, by the end of the month, the city was tens of thousands of dollars in the hole, according to Megan Bates, deputy director of highway and open spaces.


“Last year, we had a lot of ice at the beginning of the year,” Bates said, which gobbled up the budget. This year, getting pounded in one week seems like a lot, but budgets for workers’ salaries and road materials, like sand, salt and liquid calcium chloride, are holding.

What’s made this year seem different is that the storms have dragged on longer, she said.

“We’ve got the salt/sand trucks on the road all the time,” she said, adding that the drivers of those vehicles are getting fatigued.

The city staffs two snow-clearing teams, staggering their hours to make sure the workers receive their mandatory eight-hour rest periods, but the length of the storms has stretched out the number of days worked. Even when the crews are on their rest breaks, they’re not really resting because they’ve got to clear driveways and walkways at their homes, Bates said.

So even though budgets are holding, the crews are not getting a break.

In Turner, there are fewer Public Works employees to do the job.


“We’re tired of it,” Town Manager Kurt Schaub said. “We’re very tired of it.”

Schaub said 23 percent of the town’s entire winter budget was spent in January, a budget that is supposed to cover expenditures from October through May.

“If February is a repeat of January in terms of the number of storms and intensity, Turner may be feeling the pinch,” Schaub said. Right now, the salt budget is tight and overtime expenditures are minimal, he said, but the plow crews are very tired and would “certainly like to have a few days’ break.”

After Tuesday morning, they will get a short one.

It’s not supposed to snow again in Turner until Thursday morning, when another 2 inches of snow are forecast.

In Lisbon, the salt/sand budget is about 85 percent expended, according to Public Works Director E. Ryan Leighton, and some other small towns are calculating similar costs.


In Sabattus, as of Monday, the town had spent 90 percent of its overtime budget, 87 percent of its salt budget and 75 percent of its sand budget, according to Town Manager Andrew Gilmore. He expects the town will go over budget on all three lines.

“There’s plenty of winter left,” Gilmore said, and the town is preparing to purchase additional sand and salt to get through it.

In Jay, 1,400 of the 2,700 hours allocated to snow removal have already been spent. 

“We’ve used three-fifths of our budgeted overtime hours,” Town Manager Shiloh LaFreniere said. 

The town still has sand available, but has been forced to purchase additional salt. Even so, the salt use “is still within our budget and within our estimate of use that we provided (Androscoggin Valley Council of Governments) for our pricing,” LaFreniere said.

Most of the towns in Androscoggin, Franklin and Oxford counties purchase their sand/salt materials through AVCOG in order to make the most of bulk purchasing.


Mechanic Falls has also had to purchase additional salt, already using 55 tons more than the 500 tons budgeted, according to Town Manager John Hawley. They’ve used 74 percent of the 4,000 cubic yards of stored sand, and have spent 58 percent of the overtime budget for snow removal.

Minot has also used more salt than expected because of early wet and icy conditions in November and December. Town Administrator Arlan Saunders estimates that the town has used about 50 percent more salt than budgeted, and has 200 cubic yards left of the 4,000 yards of sand stored for the winter. He hopes to have another 1,000 yards delivered Wednesday.

Saunders said the town is $55,000 over budget for winter roads — and $20,000 of that is because of salt.

In neighboring Poland, Town Manager Bradley Plante said crews have used 400 tons of 800 tons of stockpiled salt, as well as virtually all 3,500 cubic yards of stored sand. That means the town will have to dip into a reserve pile in the quarry to meet demand for the remainder of the winter.

Plante estimates that 65 percent of the winter budget set aside for overtime hours has already been spent.

Farther north, in Rumford and Mexico, Town Manager John Madigan said the salt, sand and overtime budgets for both towns are well within normal ranges for this time of year.


“Normally, the town of Rumford orders 5,000 yards of sand,” Madigan said. “Last year, we ordered 6,000 yards and we ended up being strapped by the end of winter. This year, we ordered 6,500 yards of sand, and so far, it seems as if that amount of sand will hold up for the rest of the winter.”

In Mexico, Madigan said the town usually orders 3,000 yards of sand, and they increased it to 3,500 for the current budget cycle.

“Those extra 500 yards of sand should be a big help to both towns,” Madigan said.

Neither town’s public works department has burned through their overtime budget, he said.

“In Mexico, I give 200 hours of overtime to each employee in the Highway Department,” Madigan said. “There’s only been one time in 10 years where the employees exceeded those hours. At this point, I think we’re doing good.

“There’s no question that we’re right up against it, with all of the back-to-back storms,” he said. “If we keep getting hit over and over again, we might have some issues, but I think we’ve been pretty lucky. Some of these big storms haven’t hit us as hard as they hit the big cities.”


Wilton Town Manager Rhonda Irish said the town has used approximately half of its salt and sand allocation.

“We do not anticipate at this time having to purchase any more salt and sand above the amounts we have budgeted for,” Irish said. “As far as personnel payroll, we are still within our budget as normal for this time of year. Again, unless every week is like the past two weeks of this winter, we should be okay.”

In Harrison, the town has used less salt and sand than budgeted, and is still within its overtime budget for the year, according to Town Manager George “Bud” Finch.

If the trend in storms continues, though, and the town goes over budget, Finch said they wouldn’t pinch on storm cleanup.

“We would spread our spring cleanup programs out over a longer time period and cut into other spring activities,” he said.

In Otisfield, acting Administrative Assistant Anne Pastore said the town has spent more than it would like on overtime, but priority is to keep the roads safe.


In Norway, Town Manager David Holt also said safety is the top priority.

“We’ve had more snow than normal and if it continues through May, I’ll be worried,” he said, but “if it snows, we’re going to plow it, and if it’s ice, we’re going to sand.”

Next door, in Paris, the town spent $19,000 to clear the Jan. 27 blizzard, and is one of many towns across Maine working with local emergency management directors to apply for federal disaster relief funds.

In Turner, where $26,000 was spent to clear blizzard Juno, manager Schaub said the application process is never fast and there’s no guarantee the funds will be approved. If they are, he said, reimbursement will go a long way to bring municipal budgets back in line with anticipated winter spending.

In Livermore, the town hasn’t had to spend any additional funds on salt, sand or overtime. Instead, according to Administrative Assistant Carrie Castonguay, the road crews elected to “bank everything in comp time.”

“The poor guys are exhausted,” she said. “They’ve put in some pretty hellacious hours. Too darn much.”

After a midweek break and Thursday’s storm, the next snowfall is forecast for the following Tuesday — but this time, it will only be flurries.


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