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New savings from reduced snow plow crews

Jan 13, 2011 6:37 am
Another sign of the times, from the Daily Mail, reports on how the Greene County highway department is trimming costs by cutting back snow plow personnel to one per truck, ending the tradition of sending out a trainee "wingman" on regular runs in exchange for solo runs. In the story, Greene County Highway Superintendent Gary Harvey says the department is already realizing some savings during this winter season, training plow truck drivers to both drive and operate the plow.
A “wingman” to operate the plow would typically sit in the cab with the driver, Harvey said, but due to budget restraints, “We’re down on personnel. People are retiring and not being replaced,” he said. “We’re instituting this year the pilot program for one-person plowing.” Without compromising safety, drivers are now being trained to use the truck’s center console to operate the plows.
Of the 26 trucks sent out around the county during a heavy snow, a majority of them will soon have a single operator, although for safety purposes, a few of the trickier routes will maintain double cab crews due to the windiness or narrowness of the roadway.
Harvey said about four drivers have been properly trained so far and they expect a significant savings by season’s end, though it’s still too early to tell how much.
The county’s annual budget for snow removal exceeds $2.6 million for about 270 miles of county highways. About $1.1 million was budgeted for personal services, which includes hourly and overtime wages. The county is also looking to technology and new municipal plow sharing programs to cut costs.


New technologies also play a role in saving the county money during the snowy season.

A new truck improvement, Harvey said, has increased the capability of spreading just the right amount of sand and salt.

While salt and sand spreaders are usually installed on the truck’s each season, the fleet’s newest addition has a built-in dispenser.

A computer-operated system allows settings to inputted depending on the conditions — heavy snow, light snow, ice, etc. — so the spreader dispenses the right amount of material.

“It’s more efficient and more effective,” Harvey said of the newest truck.

The county spends about $260,000 on salt and $120,000 on sand annually, with salt being the preferred the material.

“We used to spend a lot on sand but the roads have been getting in better condition for salt,” Harvey said.

Salt, which can be used sparingly but have the same effectiveness as a lot of sand, costs about $60 per ton while sand is $10 per ton.

Plow sharing

The county has also enjoyed an efficient partnership with towns.

Some of the more difficult county roads to access have been plowed by the town for several years, Harvey said.

While the county supplies some money for the town to plow and sand/salt the roadway, it ultimately saves county workers time and fuel.

“It helps our response time in getting over there,” Harvey said.

Some of those county roadways are located close to town highway departments, so it is a sensible efficiency for taxpayers countywide.

The towns of Durham, Halcott, Lexington and Prattsville all help with plowing hard to reach highways, including county routes 6 in Lexington, 11 in Prattsville, 20 in Durham, and 1 and 3 in Halcott.

“It’s really a logistical savings,” said Harvey.

Harvey said there may be a plan in the future for the county to drop the plow on town roads, though nothing concrete has been established yet.
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