As the inch count continues to pile up this winter for snow (three feet — 36 inches — has fallen on the Island since Dec. 1), so does the dollar count for snow removal.
Every Island town reported this week that it has already exceeded its snow removal budget for 2014. To date the six towns have spent a total of about $245,000 for plowing, salting and sanding Island roads.
By far the largest amount has been spent in West Tisbury, followed by Chilmark. All three up-Island towns subcontract out their plowing and sanding services, while the three down-Island towns handle most of the work in-house through their highway departments.
West Tisbury town administrator Jennifer Rand said this week that the town budgeted $40,000 for snow removal and has already overspent that amount by $45,000 for a grand total of $85,000 to date. The amount is about even with all of last year, when the town spent $86,000 on snow removal. The year before the number was $23,000.
Chilmark executive secretary Timothy Carroll said his town budgeted $10,000 for snow removal and has gone over budget by $40,000.
Aquinnah and down-Island numbers are more modest by comparison.
Aquinnah budgeted $10,760 and has exceeded budget by $5,500.
Edgartown budgeted $35,800 for snow removal and has gone over by $6,000. Tisbury budgeted $15,000 and is over by $9,200. Oak Bluffs budgeted $20,000 and is over by $5,000.
“We’ve spent it all, it’s been a tough winter,” said Oak Bluffs highway superintendent Richard Combra Jr. “I can’t really recall a busier winter — in at least five years, we haven’t done this much salting and sanding.”
Mr. Carroll in Chilmark agreed that the bills are adding up.
“It’s still within the normal range of things, but if we get a few more big storms then we’ll get worried,” he said. “The next loads of snow will determine whether or not we place an article on the town meeting warrant.”
Under state law, snow and ice removal are the only budget line items towns may overspend on, with the consent of the selectmen and finance committees. The extra spending can be covered by taking money from free cash at a special or annual town meeting, by making a transfer within the existing town budget, or by raising property taxes.
At their meeting last week, West Tisbury selectmen voted to allow the town to exceed the snow removal budget. Selectman Cynthia Mitchell praised the road clearing work done by highway crews under contract.
“The snow removal has been a work of art, really,” selectman Cynthia Mitchell said. “I travel through a couple of towns to get to my job and it’s always very clear when I leave West Tisbury.”
Ms. Rand said Richard Olsen has the contract for snow removal in West Tisbury. Mr. Olsen is also the town highway superintendent.
Chilmark pays for plowing using more than one subcontractor, Mr. Carroll said, at a rate of $80 to $100 an hour. Contractors include Maciel Land and Tree, Keith Emin, Hutch Kerwin, Zach Katino, Fred Fischer and Ken Cottrill.
The Aquinnah contract is with Ken Cottrill.
Chilmark and West Tisbury share salting and sanding services, with Chilmark paying for salt and West Tisbury paying for sand. Both materials are stockpiled in West Tisbury.
In Oak Bluffs Mr. Combra said his crews have been working long hours to keep the roads clear.
“I’m hoping for spring. I’m ready for it,” he said.