SKOWHEGAN — Another 4 or 5 inches of snow fell on Thursday and another storm is predicted on Sunday — so what’s a public works director to do with it all?

Snow dumps. In Skowhegan, Road Commissioner Greg Dore said his crews have been out plowing 26 times so far this winter season. The average is about 18 times by the end of February. He said about 70 inches of snow has fallen so far, which is the average for an entire winter in central Maine. There’s still a good six weeks still to go.

More snow means more plow trips around town, more overtime for the department’s 12 employees and more visits to the snow dumps, Dore said. “Right now I’m at 70 or 80 percent of my overtime budget,” he said. “I budget 2,500 ton of salt, and we just got delivery that put me over 2,100, so I’m at the end of my salt budget.”

Dore added that he is understaffed, partly because of the low pay offered to licensed Class B truck drivers at the Skowhegan Highway Department. “Your can’t keep them and you can’t hire them,” he said. “We don’t pay them enough, I think, is part of the problem. It’s hard right now, especially when you’re looking at oil companies and some of these other people that hire truck drivers seasonally. They’re paying $22 and $25 an hour.”

Skowhegan pays its plow and truck drivers $12.80 an hour, Dore said.

In Waterville, Public Works Director Mark Turner said his crews have been sent out 27 times for about 60 inches of snow.

“We have one snow dump out behind the railroad terminal off College Avenue,” Turner said.

In years past, the city dumped its snow in a huge pile at the far end of Head of Falls. The pile was there well into the summer months some years.

“We relocated the snow dump about six or seven years ago,” he said. “Head of Falls is now being re-envisioned with a new Riverwalk and event site for the city. The city is also marketing some land for private investment and development.

In Skowhegan, Dore said the town uses three snow dumps. One is at the town transfer station, another on Pine Street near the HP Fairfield Co. and a third in an open field opposite the Community Center off West Front Street. Snow was dumped in alternative locations, including at the state fairgrounds for a few years, but that soon was discontinued. Before that, snow also was dumped in fields opposite the school district offices, where the Marti Stevens Learning Center is now.

Dore said the plow trucks do their job clearing the streets and pushing the snow off to the side. Then at night, in the downtown area, all of the snow is pulled from the side of the curb into the middle of the street in big piles to be loaded onto dump trucks. The trucks take it all to the closest snow dump.

Dore, who has been road commissioner for 27 years, said in the old days, snow was plowed but it was not removed during a storm, which clogged streets and roads. Some roads didn’t get plowed at all until the storm had passed, he said.

Compounding the removal problem this year has been the sleet, freezing rain and frigid temperature that accompanied the snow.

Dore said the big piles of snow and ice, such as the one at the town landfill can last, depending on the temperature, sometimes into late spring.

Dore said the final chore involving the snow piles in the spring is picking up all the trash that gets plowed up and collected with the snow and is exposed when the snow melts.

So what’s in the trash piles they have to get rid of?

“Car parts and McDonald’s bags,” he said.

 

Doug Harlow — 612-2367

[email protected]

Twitter:@Doug_Harlow

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