City saves big this mild winter

Mille Lacs County Times

The temperatures this time last year were well below zero. The snow depths were measured in feet, not inches. It was a colder year with unusually high snow depths, which makes the mild winter of 2012 even more of a contrast.

Little snow accumulation has meant fewer trips down the sidewalk with the shovel, and fewer trips for municipal snow plows.

“The snow removal expenses are in much better shape this year,” said Milaca City Manager Greg Lerud. “A couple of years ago, the city curtailed much of the overtime due to local government aid cuts, so that expense has been minimal. We do pay a contractor to haul the snow from the down town area, and that has been significantly less this winter season (so far) than past years.”

So far, the city has spent a mere $450 on snow removal. For the entire 2010-2011 season, Milaca paid $6,860 for the services. That compares to an average $3,550 annual expense for the seasons between 2006 and 2009.

“As you can see, last year was almost double for the five-year average, and we have only hauled snow one time this year,” Lerud said. “Another expense that we will realize savings on are for plow cutting edges. We purchased the edges we are using now in 2011, but with the lack of wear and tear (which will hopefully continue) could push off having to purchase new ones for next season.”

But for the snow lovers and winter activities that define the Minnesota climate, this year’s weather has had the opposite affect.

“The flip side of a milder and less snowy year is the skating rink is not open, and the cross country trails have not been opened,” he said. “The city crews have been fighting the combination of warm weather early on, and now that the snow has been falling, trying to be able to clear the ice. The main problem with the skating rink is that the rink has a design that requires it to be over a foot deep in some spots in order to get water to the outer edges.”

For the full story, see the Thursday, Feb. 2 print edition of the Times.