Friday, May 27, 2011

Snow job

Remember slogging through the worst winter in 20 years a few months back?

Remember the excellent condition the town roads were in?

I had the opportunity to talk to Highway Superintendent Mike Nielson today about the season.  For a guy who people feared wouldn't be able to do the job because he's a firefighter in Kingston, the results are pretty damned impressive.

Mike set himself the goal of keeping our roads clear while saving money.  Then, he got hit with the nastiest, harshest winter we've seen in a generation - I've confirmed how bad a season it was by checking with Wayne Kelder, who oversees the highways in the Town of Rochester on the other side of the ridge.

This winter was the one where every single highway department in Ulster County - including the county's - was over budget.  It's just one of those things that happens when you're dealing with the mysteries of weather, and towns have budget mechanisms to move money around when that much snow hits the plow.

New Paltz, however, spent 60% of its snow removal budget, and did it without those nasty sand buildups which are pretty much expected during the long, dark days of winter.

How 'bout that?

Here's a few more interesting details about the highway department:

  • Past practice has dumped 1,800 pounds of sand and salt on the roads.  This season it was cut back to 700 - and Nielson feels that it can be done with even less material.
  • To put it another way, Ulster County spent $35 per lane mile on snow removal.  New Paltz did the same job for $13 per lane mile, and Nielson has set a target of $7.
  • This represents a savings to the New Paltz taxpayers of $84,000 for the season. The superintendent's salary is approximately $43,000, so Nielson has effectively worked for free.
Anyone who doesn't think we got our money's worth voting for Nielson should be prepared to demonstrate why.

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