Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Snow removal budget down, not out

City of Ketchum staff say service won?t be affected


By JON DUVAL
Express Staff Writer

Snow removal crews work in downtown Ketchum last week after one of many snowstorms that has hit central Idaho this winter. Photo by Mountain Express

While plentiful snowfall from the past month's storms is likely to mean an increase in revenue for area businesses, it also means the city of Ketchum will see an increase in expenditures as it steps up its efforts to keep the streets clear.

"Snow removal is a priority for the city," Ketchum's interim City Administrator Jim Jaquet said on Friday, Feb. 1, a day after approximately 8 inches of fresh snow had fallen. "We know it's essential for the health and safety of our residents, as well as for our businesses."

Jaquet said the city has $175,000 in its 2007-2008 budget for snow removal throughout the winter, with the majority funding a contract for services for dump trucks to haul the snow from downtown. Also included in this part of the city's budget are costs for fuel and part-time employees.

According to Jaquet, more than half the winter's snow-removal budget has already been used, though the exact figure has yet to be determined since the city hasn't received all the bills for January.

Ketchum Streets Superintendent Brian Christiansen said the contracts for professional services were set at $145,000 at the beginning of the fiscal year, and that he expected that around $54,000 would remain once all outstanding bills were paid.

"We're not extended yet, but if this continues and we have a couple more big snowstorms, there's a really good chance we'll go over," Christiansen said. "Still, we're not in too bad shape."

Jaquet said that if the budget is indeed surpassed, snow removal will continue unfettered by way of the city's contingency fund. He said this fund was strapped somewhat from the Castle Rock Fire in August, but that the city is expecting a check from the government to reimburse much of the cost.

"There's more snow than usual for this time of year," Jaquet said. "As well, the level of service has continued to improve year after year, with the city hauling more snow and increasing its capability of handling a larger area."

Jaquet said this was exemplified by the newly constructed Fourth Street Heritage Corridor, which added a greater amount of sidewalk space to be cleared.

As well as spending more money, the large amounts of snow also necessitated an equipment upgrade.

Jaquet said the vehicle used to push snow at the city's dump, located just east of the lower River Run parking lot, had to be upgraded, as the original machine couldn't keep up with the loads brought in by the dump trucks.

"We're doing whatever's necessary to keep up," Jaquet said.




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