City officials brace for snow, budget constraints

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By Andrew Krietz
Lansing Star staff writer

This week’s snowstorm could give Lansing officials a storm of another kind.

LANSING- About $1.8 million has been allocated for the city’s winter operations each year for the past two years, said Chad Gamble, director of public service. That amount, although steady, has the potential to be breached if the area receives heavy snow.

Depending on the number of snowstorms the area experiences, the allocation could be right on target — as it was last year — or under budget as officials are experiencing now, Gamble said.

“It’s not like we run out of that budget, we’re going to stop plowing the streets,” he said. “It’s a matter of public safety.”

When the potential of significant snowfall is imminent, the budget could be surpassed by thousands of dollars with extra crews hitting the city’s 440 miles of road for a longer duration of time, dipping into the city’s rainy day or general fund, Gamble said.

When road crews are sent out on extra shifts, it costs an additional $125,000-$175,000, he said.

That might be the picture this week as forecasters predicted a major storm for the Great Lakes region.

“This is certainly the biggest storm of the winter season so far,” said Brandon Hoving, a meteorologist at the National Weather Service in Grand Rapids.

A winter storm watch was in effect Tuesday afternoon through Wednesday evening with the expectation of snowfall totals in excess of a foot with winds near 30 mph, he said. Blizzard conditions or worse had been expected.

“We’re going to need a little more data (and) confidence to go that route,” Hoving said. “At the present time, the watch covers those threats.”

Susan Penl, a Lansing resident, said the city’s snow crews do a fin job clearing the city’s main roadways whenever a storm brushes the area.

“They usually get to the side streets last, (but) as long as the main roads are clear for me to go about my day, that’s good,” she said.

Should the midweek storm system develop in line with forecasts, Gamble said Lansing residents should be aware crews will begin to prepare their plows with larger blades and additional salt and sand deicing mixtures as early as Monday.

“No winter event is the same,” he said. “(Although) our staffing levels have gone down, our response to the road conditions — our core mission of keeping the streets cleared  … will continue to be our first priority.”

View Projected snowfall in a larger map

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