City snow and ice removal budgets on thin ice across eastern Iowa

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DUBUQUE, Iowa (KCRG) -- Eastern Iowa should see more snow tomorrow into Wednesday, which means cities will have to dig into their budgets, even more, to keep roads safe and get them clear.

City of Dubuque employees remove snow on Main St. on Wednesday, Feb. 13, 2019. (Allison Wong, KCRG-TV9)

In Dubuque, Public Works Director John Klostermann is watching the $1.5 million snow and ice removal budget carefully.

"There's about 29 percent remaining of that, so there's about $400,000 remaining," Klostermann said.

The budget covers salt, equipment maintenance, employee overtime, fuel, and more.

Klostermann said the budget accounted for $90,000 in overtime, but they've already exceeded that. He said, "we’ve exceeded that line item by...$44,000 I believe. That was last Friday, of course the weekend would’ve been all overtime too.”

He said his crews have been using a lot of salt, especially during the ice storm.

"The ice event was a big event for us, it was 48 hours, took a lot of salt to keep traffic moving. That was a big, costly event," he said. "We used about 700 tons for that event alone.”

The public works department uses about 6,100 tons of salt each year, according to Klostermann. If crews use more, that could impact next year's budget.

"Five thousand and five hundred tons is what we budgeted for in fiscal year '20, so let's say we have to buy more than that, that starts to affect that budget and we're back into where do we find the dollars to do that," Klostermann explained.

If the department uses up the remaining $400,000 in the snow and ice removal budget, money will have to come from other areas, like street maintenance, to cover the difference. That means the city might not be able to repave as many roads as it would like to this spring.

"While we budget for a five-mile paving program every year, sometimes we'll be able to do a bit more than that if we have the funds available," Klostermann explained. "Right now it doesn't look that way."

The City of Waterloo has a snow and ice removal budget of $1.8 million, according to Public Works Director Randy Bennet. Bennet didn't know how much the city has spent so far. He said his main concern is having enough salt to get through the winter. The city is contracted for 4,800 tons of salt with Cargill, and Bennet said his department has used nearly 4,000 so far.

In Iowa City, Streets Superintendent Brock Holub said his department typically spends between $500,000 and $600,000 on snow and ice removal. He said the city has spent nearly $600,000 so far this winter.