With back-to-back snowstorms over the course of just a few weeks, cities like Boston have been burning through their budget in order to keep the streets and sidewalks safe and passable for constituents.
For winter storm Nemo alone, Hub officials said they had to shovel out more than $13 million on snow removal efforts during the duration of the weekend blizzard in early February.
“That just kind of tells you right there…it was a historic snowstorm and a monumental effort to work on it,” said Meredith Weenick, Boston’s chief financial officer.
A week later, the city reached back into its pockets and spent an additional $2 million on plowing and sanding, after another weekend storm swept over the Bay State and dropped several inches of snow in the area.
Now, the city is gearing up for another round of snow plowing, following a winter weather advisory from the National Weather Service.
On Thursday, the NWS in Taunton said that people should expect wet, heavy snow as there is a high probability of a strong coastal storm this weekend.
“The threat for a period of heavy snow is possible across much of the region,” according to the weather advisory. “There will be the potential for some downed tree limbs and power outages where heavy wet snow occurs.”
Mayor Thomas Menino warned Boston residents that the city could see four to eight inches of snow late Saturday into Sunday morning, with the possibility of high winds and gusts in the area.
On Friday morning, the mayor met with members of his “Snow Team” to discuss the latest storm related information and preparation plans for the weekend.
“Boston will be ready for its third consecutive weekend storm,” Menino said in a statement. “We will be out treating the roads before the snow, and our plows are ready to hit the streets this weekend.”
Although plows may be plentiful as another winter storm rolls towards the Hub, the cash to pay for the work is melting fast.
Weenick said because the city spent around $2 million on clean up costs from last weekend’s storm, if the snowfall is greater this time around, it’s likely they will spend what’s left of the budget.
“Obviously if we have only got a little more than $2 million, it seems like we will exceed [the budget],” she said.
Other cities and towns in the area are feeling a similar pinch as they prepare to call on contractors and workers to come clear out the major roadways in their respective municipalities.
Boston’s snow budget varies year to year, much like the weather in New England.
For instance, in fiscal 2011, Weenick said Boston spent roughly $21 million on snow removal and plowing, during what she called the “Shaq” year.
The year prior, however, they only doled out $12 million.
Although the city already anticipates over-spending, the only way Boston would find itself in a bind would be if the snowfall continued each weekend as it has been.
“If we go from $15 million to $35 million in costs, if we had that kind of snow, we would probably need to slow down [city] spending,” said Weenick.
Weenick said snow removal and safety are the top priority, however, and even if Boston exceeds the budget, they will be able to identify revenue sources to cover the costs.
“Just like any other departmental deficit, we will cover it,” she said.