Eastern Iowa taxpayer dollars saved by no snow - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Eastern Iowa taxpayer dollars saved by no snow

City of Dubuque snowplows sit dormant this winter City of Dubuque snowplows sit dormant this winter

City and county governments throughout eastern Iowa are saving hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars, all thanks to Mother Nature.

So far this 2011-2012 winter season, Waterloo and Dubuque have received 2.6" of snow; 1" of snow has fallen on Iowa City; and Cedar Rapids has seen just 0.8".

The savings come in the lack of snow removal efforts. Plus, crews are putting time normally used for battling the elements into various clean-up and construction projects.

The buzz of construction on a new pedestrian suspension bridge at Dubuque County's New Wine Park, near Dyersville and New Vienna, marks the end of a to-do list for Brian Preston, executive director of the Dubuque County Conservation Board.

"This project right here is significant because it's our last 2010 disaster repair, so when we're completed with this project, we'll be officially done with all the work associated with the 2010 flooding," he said.

Flooding in July 2010 wiped out the bridge.

Crews are able to tackle this and other disaster-related clean-up projects instead of removing snow from parking lots and trails.

"This is the most productive winter we've probably had in five or six years," Preston said Monday at the park.

He said projects such as have readied the county to open Swiss Valley Park's campground on time for the spring season, right around mid-April. It was devastated in the flood of late July 2011, and initial estimates put its restoration months beyond spring 2012.

Also, Preston said, the warm weather has allowed crews to finish more work on the Heritage Trail, which also sustained heavy damage in July's flood.

While county conservation crews are quickly checking off their to-do list, however, many cities' snowplows are at a standstill.

John Klostermann is the street and sewer maintenance supervisor with the city of Dubuque.

"When we look at where our expenditures were last year, compared to where they are right now, there's a savings of about $180,000 so far," Klostermann said Monday in his office, adding that last year, however, had more snow than the average winter.

Dubuque bought 8,000 tons of salt in advance of the winter season. Klostermann said crews have only used 160 tons - or two percent - of that.

Also, no snow for the holidays means road crews could rest easy.

"It's great for work environment around here," Klostermann said. "I enjoyed the holidays, and there really wasn't a whole lot of work issues throughout the whole holidays, so it's been a great break. That's for sure."

Compared to this time last year, Iowa City reported Monday it has saved about $100,000. An official said $70,000 of that is from money saved on salt, and the other $30,000 is how much less overtime pay crews have accrued so far this year.

Iowa City also said it is experiencing fewer water main breaks. In a typical year, one official said, the city expects to deal with anywhere from 80 to 110 breaks. This year, because there is less frost below the ground, the city is on track to tackle only 60.

Linn County reported Monday it has saved more than $25,000 in overtime pay, compared with last year up to this point.

A Linn County official reported it ordered 2,000 tons of salt in advance of the winter season, with some left over from last year. Any salt remaining at this end of winter will be used next year, which could results in salt cost savings in the next fiscal year.

Dubuque County engineer Bret Wilkinson said, compared to last year, the county has saved more than $270,000. He said $200,000 of that savings has been in materials and more than $70,000 in savings came from overtime hours that have not been used this year.

Klostermann has enjoyed this relatively easy winter weather, but, he said, he's not taking it for granted.

"I don't personally believe that winter's over yet," he said.

The Iowa Department of Transportation said, on average, crews use 20 percent of the season's salt by the end of December. This year, however, the DOT said, crews have used half that much -- only 10 percent of the annual projected usage.

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