The snow has melted away, and so has the budget. And then some.
This winter's heavier-than-usual snows caught Utah County cities by surprise. Every city polled spent more than budgeted for snow removal, and now they must hustle to find the extra funds."We will have to ask the council for funds," said Steve Weber, Orem maintenance division director. "If they don't give us the money, it will rob other services - parks, streets, engineering and other projects. I can't say for sure who or where it would hurt."
In some cities, lack of funds could mean more potholes.
"We're just like a household," said G. Preston Taylor, acting director of services for American Fork. "If we run over on one thing, we have to cut back on something else. It will be a hardship, but I don't see any critical shortages. We will still be able to fix most potholes. There may be a little less finishing asphalt."
Smaller cities feel the pinch sooner, said LaMar Openshaw, Santaquin city councilman.
"We have a smaller budget, and a really bad year can mean we don't have money to asphalt roads. A year like this might cut down on the patching process. We will still do the emergency stuff; it has started already."
Officials from several cities, including Provo and Lehi, said they had spent more or used more salt and cinders than expected, but had funds left from last year. For them, the overspending will have little or no impact on other programs.
Mapleton was fortunate to have extra funds available, but it is unlucky in another way.
"We really got hammered," Kent Wheeler, superintendent of maintenance, said. "Mapleton sits between Spanish Fork and Hobble Creek Canyons, so we get lots of wind. It caused a heck of a lot of drifting."
The crew worked around the clock some days, but still couldn't keep up with drifting.
"We didn't see a lot of our kids on Christmas."
Salem Councilman Randy Brailsford said he has put in his share of time on a snowplow.
"We have two men who run the plows, and councilmen will spell them. A tired employee makes mistakes that could be costly or hurt someone."
Provo has a relatively large crew and fleet of plows, and was able to clear quickly after most storms.
"Some cities have less service, but in Provo, every street is plowed," Tom Manzanares, senior streets maintenance supervisor, said. "We are geared to clear everything."
Orem takes a more conservative approach.
"We are ready for the average snowfall," Weber said. "Normally, we just do the major streets and let Mother Nature take care of the rest. For a few storms this season, we have plowed every street in the city.
"It doesn't make sense to budget for equipment that will end up sitting around, waiting for the kind of storms that come every five years or so. But I think we could use a little more equipment without being wasteful."
Orem hires private contractors when it needs extra help. Spanish Fork hires help for hard jobs or areas that are hard to get to, and Salem has used contractors to remove ice, but most other cities say they do all work themselves. But hard jobs and long hours wear equipment out faster.
"There is definitely a lot of wear and tear on Orem's equipment," Weber said. Most cities admitted to having one or more plows idle because of damage.
"Salem's plow takes a beating," Brailsford said. "We buy new equipment as our budget will allow, but we are a small town. Now we have a 1977 plow. Before we got that, we had a '66 and a '62."
Pleasant Grove's public works director, Frank Mills, said the extra effort costs cities again in summer.
"The big expense most cities have is road repair," he said. "If you clear the snow completely, the frost can get into the asphalt and break it up. People would have fewer problems in the summer if they didn't clear down to the asphalt."
Don Pinkham, director of public works for Lehi, believes just the opposite.
"If you keep the shoulders of the road down, the water can get away and it saves problems," he said. "You can drive through Pleasant Grove and Lehi and see the difference in potholes."
By nature, snow removal duty can have long and odd hours. Gary Ekker, Springville streets superintendent, says he and his crew sleep lighter all winter, awaiting wake-up calls from the city police on nights it snows.
But several officials pointed out they will spend the summer drinking that same snow - at least when they're not trying to fix potholes without asphalt.