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January 12, 2014

Winter depletes town budgets in N.H.

Municipal officials concerned about costs

It’s been more than a week since a major storm dumped nearly a foot of snow on Southern New Hampshire, but some town officials are still on edge.

They’re anxiously waiting to hear how many thousands of dollars their communities spent on salt, sand and snow removal during the two-day storm.

Only two weeks into 2014, some towns are almost afraid to find out how much they spent. They already are facing a dire financial situation when it comes to winter maintenance costs.

Several days of icy roads and at least two snowstorms in December — when often there are none — saw municipal spending soar. So when the nor’easter hit Jan. 2-3, their budgets were already on thin ice.

“It was a very costly storm for the town,” Sandown Selectmen’s Chairman Thomas Tombarello said. “We were already out of money in December.”

Sandown voters approved $125,000 for plowing and $89,500 for salt and sand in March, but it wasn’t enough. The need to deal with icy roads and December snowstorms exhausted the budget, Tombarello said.

Derry also expended a huge chunk of its winter maintenance budget before the new year even started.

The town spent $265,000 of its $607,000, or 44 percent, of its winter budget by Dec. 30, public works director Michael Fowler said. He estimated Derry spent an additional $50,000 to $75,000 dealing with the two-day storm.

Fowler said he isn’t concerned at this point, saying it’s too early in the season. A snowy December and January can be followed by very little snow and ice in February and March.

But Tombarello is worried about the weather and expenses.

“It’s very scary,” he said. “If this pattern keeps up, we are going to have a problem. I’m very, very concerned.”

Sandown is relying on a state Department of Transportation block grant to fund snow removal until a new budget is approved in March.

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