Unless you and Rumplestiltskein just woke up after a long nap, you probably know all too well how busy the Kent snow plow operators have been this year because you’ve been equally busy behind your shovel taking care of your little corner of Kent.
Make no mistake about it, Old man winter has been on a roll and we’ve been busy chasing, pushing and scooping up his snow flakes all over town. LiveScience reports that each cubic foot of snow contains approximately 1 billion snowflakes so with 8.5 feet of snow so far this year we’re talking an unfathomable number of flakes.
Given those numbers, the cost of snow operations on a per snowflake basis probably isn’t too bad but if we look at it on a per inch basis, it can start adding up pretty quick. The bulk of the costs are in the labor (running around the clock for days at a time is never cheap) and materials (mainly salt with truck fuel thrown in the mix too).
In 2009, the Public Service Director reports that he spent $317,919 to handle 62″ of snow — that works out to about $5,127 per inch.
The bad news is that we’ve already had 102″ of snow this year, but thanks to some mechanical innovations in the snow operations this year (mainly increased use of steel blades which requires less salt application) the crews have spent $317,852 for 102″ which works out to $3,110 per inch.
From a productivity perspective that’s nearly a 40% improvement which has saved an estimated $200,000.
Steel plow blades are rough on snow which means we get back to pavement quicker without as much salt application, but they can also be rough on the surface of the street too so we’ll be monitoring the impacts this change has on our street repair budget to make sure we’re not just moving one cost to another cost center in our budget. So far we’re way ahead and we plan to stay that way.
Of course, a little help from Old Man Winter would go a long ways.