St. James Plaindealer - St. James, MN
  • Watonwan Public Works Director Risser offers up a winter-in-review

  • Due to the mild winter that Minnesota had, as compared to the horrendous winters of the past two years, the Public Works office was able to save on various items.

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  • Due to the mild winter that Minnesota had, as compared to the horrendous winters of the past two years, the Public Works office was able to save on various items.
    While the dollars saved have yet to be tallied, Watonwan County Public Works Director and County Engineer Roger Risser was still able to list off some of the items the County may have saved on.
    “We probably saved diesel fuel,” noted Risser. “We probably saved on salt for the salt-sand that we put on the roads and obviously, saved on wear-and-tear on the equipment. On cutting edges, we go through $30,000 to $40,000 worth of cutting edges on our blades.”
    Gas for the snow plow truck has been conserved, to a certain extent.
    “We gassed-up sometime around mid-January” said the Public Works Director. “I just went and checked and we have about a third of a tank. Normally, during a busy winter, we’re getting a transport every month, like last winter. So, that’s seven-thousand gallons a month, plus. Of course, MnDOT (Minnesota Department of Transportation) fills up theirs from the truck station. They pay the county to use our pumps, so they’re a big draw, too.”
    However, Risser admitted, with the rising price of gas, there wasn’t a lot of money saved, in regards to fuel.
    Now that Spring is here, though, the question that remains is where do the leftover expenditures go toward?
    “It basically can roll into the snow removal budget for next year,” explained Risser. “The [County] Commissioners determine what to do with it.”
    The money does, sometimes, go toward other projects, depending on what weather conditions affect the county.
    “Let’s say we have, heaven forbid, another flood or something, this summer, and we have a lot of flood repair costs,” added Risser. “We would use at least the cash-flow for those flood repair costs; then we might get reimbursed from the state if a disaster is declared and that’s what happened in September, 2010.
    “We went out and did the things we had to do to open the roads; but we had to cash-flow that upfront, and then FEMA reimbursed us, after the fact, so it’s always nice to have a few coins in the kitty, in case these unexpected [events] crop up. Those things can happen. It could be a tornado or something! Did we budget for it? No, but we had a mild winter, so that sure definitely helped. So, it’s nice to have those savings and be ready for the next unanticipated event.”
    A lot of overtime dollars were saved, as well, since there was less plowing to do, thus decreasing the need for a lot of plowers working extra hours.
    “There was very little overtime,” Risser pointed out. “By and large, the guys would rather not [work overtime], but last winter was just a little too much. We were expecting them to work 50- to 60-hour weeks, week after week after week, because of the snow and, believe me, it’s white-knuckle driving when you’re plowing a lot of snow and it’s drifting over the windshield and it’s coming off the plows. It’s definitely a stressful job. You know, a week here, with a week break, and then maybe another week, a little overtime, here and there–that’s alright. I think the guys welcome that, but not the week after week, like we had, last year. That was a tough winter on them.”
    Page 2 of 2 - With the milder climate, this winter, the pothole problems have also been fairly minimal, according to Risser.
    “We’ve had less freeze/thaw cycles,” said Risser. “From what I’ve seen, there’s been a little less damage to the roads”
    Winter adjourned!
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