Ice. Freezing rain. Rain.

Mix in a few inches of snow and it doesn’t make for much winter fun so far this season, but it sure has kept road crews busy. And much of it has been at overtime wages.

Despite the lack of snow, it’s been an average winter for road department budgets, public works directors around central Maine said.

“We plowed more snow last year to date, but this year we’ve chased what we call nuisance storms,” said Philip Curtis, Somerset County’s road commissioner for the unorganized territories. “Whether there’s a little snow or a lot of snow, we have to treat the roads. If we get an ice storm or a little dusting — whenever the road glazes over, we ended up treating it. Expense wise, we’re right about where we were this time last year.”

Curtis is also the House majority leader, representing Madison as a Republican.

In Waterville, the spending is similar, Public Works Director Mark Turner said. He said he has spent about 20 percent of the estimated $700,000 budget for winter road maintenance, which is typical for mid to late January. Of the 10 or so storms this winter, half have been ice, he said. By this time last season, his crew had been hit by 12 storms.

“Some of them have been just sanding, but they have come at night or on weekends and holidays,” Turner said. “We were out on Christmas Day this year and that’s expensive.”

Turner said last winter presented “the perfect storm almost every time,” with snow coming during the day, without a lot of overtime pay.

“Last year at this time on sand and salt we had spent $27,095 — this year we’ve spent $27,739,” he said. “I’d rather have snow, it’s easier to take care of.”

State Department of Transportation budgets for sand and salt use are on a par with the last few years, spokesman Ted Talbot said Friday. The department plows the interstate system and the Maine Turnpike, among other roads.

Skowhegan Road Commissioner Greg Dore said last year at this time his crews had been sent out for 14 storms. This year there have been eight to 10 winter storms, but overtime pay has been about the same as last year.

He said the fact that there is more overtime for fewer storms is because road crews have been sent out in the middle of the night to sand roads during freezing rain.

Dore said he hopes his new Ice B’Gone — beet molasses mixed with road salt — will cut expenses. That material arrived last week.

“As far as the budget goes, right now we’re just about at what we spend every year — except for the increased cost of salt this year due to the freezing rain,” Dore said. “The plan is that with Ice B’Gone we’re reducing the amount of salt we’re putting out. Typically we put out 500 pounds to the mile. We’ve cut that back to 200.”

Dore said the mixture reduces the amount of bounce and scatter of the salt, thus reducing the amount of splash onto trucks, moving vehicles and roadside vegetation.

More stays on the road and less salt is used, he said.

The material also helps lower the temperature threshold at which salt works on the road to break down ice. Other area highway departments are considering use of the mix and pooling their buying power with a joint purchasing agreement.

In Farmington, Public Works Director Denis Castonguay said his department has responded to 14 storms, including the first one, when six inches of snow fell on Halloween. By this time last year, there were 11 storms — seven of which included ice and freezing rain.

“An ice event costs a lot more; it takes more material,” Castonguay said. “Last year at this time we had used a quarter of our budget; this year we’ve used a third.”

They are working harder, he said, but with less snow on the ground.

Lesley Jones, public works director for the city of Augusta, said central Maine has so far mostly had wet snow followed by freezing rain, and that eats up resources.

The crews have to constantly go out and treat road surfaces, she said.

“I’d much rather have a winter like last year, a snowy cold winter. You plow the roads and you’re done,” Jones said Friday, shortly after the area received several inches of fresh powder.

Jones said the city’s public works crew spreads a combination of salt and sand on the roads, but when there’s ice on the streets and it’s really cold, she said sand and salt won’t stick. That makes for hazardous conditions.

“It’s not effective when it’s 15 degrees or lower, plus it won’t stick to the ice,” she said. “There were seven or eight road deaths around the holidays and they all were attributed to freezing rain conditions and driving too fast.”

Jones said last year the city didn’t spend as much money on winter road maintenance as had been budgeted. The snow budget was $1.16 million. Jones said her department spent 95 percent of it, leaving $53,000 unspent at the end of the year.

“This year, our budget is $1,228,000 and to date we have spent about 40 percent of it,” Jones said Friday. “Some items are charged by the month, so the budget won’t get charged for things like vehicle fuel until Jan. 31.”

Monmouth Public Works Director Herb Whittier, who was plowing snow Friday and did not have financial reports with him, said the town has spent about half of the $240,000 it had budgeted for winter road maintenance.

“We’re just about on par where we should be if winter doesn’t finish too bad,” Whittier said. “About 54 percent of wintertime has gone by and that’s just about what we’ve spent.”

That spending does not include Friday’s storm, he said.

While there have been fewer storms, Whittier said the few ice storms that have blown through the area have taken a toll.

Crews typically have to return several times as the ice thaws and re-freezes, which can run up overtime costs, he said.

“What hurts more than anything is the freezing rain because we end up using a lot of sand and salt,” Whittier said.

Staff writers Mechele Cooper, Craig Crosby and Betty Adams also contributed reporting.

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