GR, Kent County use up snow removal budgets

A plow in Grand Rapids. (Jan. 27, 2014)

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — This brutal winter is taking a financial toll on the agencies charged with clearing snow.

Grand Rapids Mayor George Heartwell told Daybreak on Tuesday morning that the city has already spent its “entire winter snow removal budget.” That’s $1.5 million.

The city says it can make up the difference with an emergency fund without cutting into any other projects.

“If the next two months are like the last two months, it’s going to be very, very difficult for us,” City Manager Greg Sundstrom said. “But if it continues snowing as it normally would, I anticipate we could go over budget by a half-million dollars, which is a lot of money.”

And Grand Rapids isn’t the only agency shelling out the cash to keep the roads clear.

In Kent County, the budget is a much larger $7 million, but the result is the same. That money is gone.

Road Commission Maintenance Director Jerry Byrne met Tuesday morning with Kent County commissioners to bring them up to speed.

“We’re concerned; we’re watching — but not overly concerned. We are not cutting projects yet. We are not looking to shave anything. We are going to make those evaluations in March and April,” Byrne said.

The Michigan Department of Transportation said this winter’s expenses are quadruple those of last year.

MDOT not only runs its own plows, it also contracts with other county road commissions to remove snow. Those costs, when added to the additional manpower, salt and sand are starting to add up on the state.

“It is a mathematical certainty that the transportation system will suffer,” MDOT spokesman John Richard said. “We will have to dip into our summer maintenance budget, so things like mowings, cleanups, painting, graffiti removal, that type of aesthetic endeavors, those types of projects will have to suffer. ”

MDOT says construction projects slated for 2014 should not suffer, but may have to be scaled back in 2015.

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