NEW ULM - The delayed and unusually warm first half of this winter has created big savings for the City of New Ulm. For just November and December of last year, the City has saved $57,756 while also avoiding cost-generating problems.
The warm winter has been well praised by City officials as a balance to the budget-busting $403,000 snow removal cost in 2011, compared to an original budget of $376,00.
Other area cities like Mankato were hit even harder. Mankato's snow removal bill was $1 million, and only $700,000 was budgeted.
The subset of savings in New Ulm consists of $14,556 saved in fuel, $15,380 saved in overtime pay and $27,809 in the purchase of salt and sand mixture for roads. The salt and sand purchases account for delayed purchases and potential future savings. The City's pre-order bid with the state was for 400 tons of the material. It is obligated to buy at least 80 percent, or 320 tons. Not having to buy the remaining 80 tons will directly save money.
City Manager Brian Gramentz expressed caution about celebrating the savings yet because this year's budget covers the rest of this winter and November and December of next winter. A severe snowfall next winter could undo the early 2012 gains.
However, the savings pleased Gramentz. There are also indirect benefits from the warm weather. He explained that warm City buildings, particularly humid locations like the indoor pool, deteriorate when the warmth transfers through brick and concrete to the outdoors. The moisture hits the cold midway through the material, causing damage to the walls. He said the warm weather prevented this process form from occurring and extended the life of some parts of City buildings. Similarly, he said the lack of frozen ground kept City pipes from shifting or bursting.
He also said the warm weather allowed the City to get ahead on other projects. One example was trimming city trees for their health, which he said was a large project held up last year by constant snow removal. He also said that private construction companies will be able to work earlier in the spring on their summer projects.
Gramentz said the City can't use the savings until 2013. Any leftover money would be added to the General Fund and utilized for needed projects, like purchasing new City vehicles.
Whether the lack of snow will prevent spring flooding is still undetermined because heavy rains could compensate for the snow. But, preliminary estimates from meteorologists indicate that spring flooding is unlikely. If no flooding occurs, the City would save thousands by not having to build a flood berm.
(Josh Moniz can be e-mailed at firstname.lastname@example.org)