AUGUSTA — The snowbanks may have finally melted, but city councilors plan to meet Thursday to deal with one more snow-related matter left over from last winter — a $450,000 snow removal cost overrun.

Repeated snowstorms, particularly in February and March, meant the city incurred cost overruns for snow removal in several areas of the budget, especially equipment costs and the cost of hiring outside contractors to help keep the streets clear.

Councilors will consider a proposal to transfer $450,000 in money booked as savings as part of the voter-approved refinancing of existing employee pension debt to cover the overruns.

City Manager William Bridgeo said clearing intersections for safety purposes and widening streets so emergency vehicles could travel on them was expensive, costing as much as $50,000 a week when outside contractors had to be hired to augment the work of the city’s maxed-out public works crews. Bridgeo, over the winter, noted in some of his weekly updates to councilors and others the snow removal budget was being exceeded and money eventually would need to be transferred to cover the cost.

“I assure you that ensuring the public’s safety was staff’s sole motivator in the actions that were taken,” Bridgeo told councilors last week.

Snow removal costs totaled $1.38 million for the year, up from the $940,000 the city spent the previous year and $787,000 the year before that.


Equipment costs for the year, including both rentals and operating the central garage maintaining city-owned equipment, came to $565,000, up from $264,000 last winter. Sand and salt costs reached $297,000, which was $92,000 more than last winter. The salt budget for the year was spent by mid-February, Bridgeo said.

Ralph St. Pierre, finance director and assistant city manager, said the city spent more than $275,000 getting rid of snow, including taking down snowbanks, in March alone.

“Snow removal killed us,” he said.

St. Pierre said when voters approved refinancing the pension obligation debt as part of the financing plan to pay for a major expansion and renovation of Lithgow Public Library, it freed up about $1.2 million in money that would have been needed if that vote had failed. Because it passed, that money is available to cover the cost overuns and other items.

Councilors plan to meet at 7 p.m. Thursday in council chambers at Augusta City Center to consider transferring the money.

Councilors also are scheduled to consider transferring $370,000 from the same pension savings, as was planned previously, to pay moving expenses and lease costs associated with relocating the library to the Ballard Center during the estimated 18 months the original library building will be under construction.


In yet another money transfer, councilors will consider moving $576,000 of money previously designated for the Lithgow project into an account dedicated to paying for the project.

Councilors also are scheduled to:

• consider awarding $250 each to Cony seniors Ben Cloutier and Alicia Stafford, recipients of the Edwards Dam Scholarship;

• consider accepting bids on four tax-acquired properties;

• set property tax due dates as Sept. 10 for the first half and March 10, 2016, for the second half;

• consider authorizing Bridgeo to allow the Greater Augusta Utility District and Maine Natural Gas crews to work at night on certain projects; and


• consider accepting $21,000 in grant money from the federal Department of Justice to buy upgraded mobile computer and communications equipment for the Police Department.

Keith Edwards — 621-5647

[email protected]

Twitter: @kedwardskj

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