By Mike LaBella
HAVERHILL — The blizzard that hit over the weekend will likely cost the city more in plowing and sanding that was spent on all the previous storms this winter, Mayor James Fiorentini said.
Fiorentini estimated the blizzard cost Haverhill about $350,000, and that ongoing clean up work will cost an additional $150,000.
Tonight, the mayor is scheduled to ask the City Council to approve borrowing money because the city's "snow and ice" accounts are nearly empty.
Yesterday, the mayor extended the city's snow emergency until Friday at 4 p.m. to give Public Works Department employees additional time to ensure snow emergency routes are safe and clear for pedestrians and motor vehicles. While the snow emergency is in effect, parking will not be allowed at any time on certain downtown streets.
Schools are open today. Superintendent James Scully said city workers have been doing their best to clear sidewalks, but because the storm was of record proportions he is asking residents to help clear sidewalks still containing snow near their homes, so that students can walk safely to and from school.
Last night, Scully used a mass phone caling device to ask parents to talk to their children about being cautious on streets where the sidewalks have not been cleared.
"Also highlight to your children the difficulties drivers face with large snow piles at intersections and other items relevant to their safety going to and from school," Scully told parents. "We will do our best to watch out for your child, but your assistance is needed so that all children understand the necessity to be cautious and sensible in these conditions."
The city budgeted $478,000 for its snow and ice budget this year and prior to the recent storm it spent $466,139, City Auditor Charles Benevento said.
"This is the only area of the budget where we are allowed to deficit spend," Fiorentini said. "Two years ago, we had a $2 million deficit in the snow budget. Last year we were on budget."
Snow and ice budgets are one of the few places communities are allowed by state law to deficit spend. The money is made up later in the city budget in the following fiscal year, which begins July 1.
Fiorentini called this weekend's storm the "fifth largest storm in Massachusetts' history" and said he planned to talk about how the city responded to the storm and what the associated costs are when he addresses the City Council tonight.
"Our position on any of these storms is to do whatever we have to do to keep the roads plowed, and we'll worry about how we'll pay for it later," Fiorentini said. "The residents of Haverhill overwhelmingly complied with my request to keep their cars off the street, and they complied with the governor's order not to drive. They should be commended for that."
The mayor said that because people kept their cars off the streets, there were no traffic tie ups, the roads were plowed and only a few vehicles needed to be towed.
Here is a look at Haverhill's spending for snow and ice removal the past four winters:
2010-2011: $2.2 million
2009-2010: $1.1 million
2009-2010: $2.1 million
Parking is not allowed on the following streets until after 4 p.m. on Friday: Emerson Street, both sides, entire length Essex Street, both sides, entire length Main Street, both sides, from Merrimack Street to Monument Square Merrimack Street, both sides, entire length River Street, both sides, from Comeau Bridge to View Street Washington Street, both sides, from Washington Square to the Comeau Bridge Water Street, both sides, from Main Street to Mill Street White Street, both sides, entire length Winter Street, both sides, entire length