Highway boss says storms haven’t busted the budget — yet

BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO | Town highway worker John Appicello removes snow from Pulaski Street last week to make room for more.

Riverhead Highway Superintendent George “Gio” Woodson said the town has enough money left in its annual snow removal budget to cover two more snow storms until Dec. 31.

But forecasters are already predicting more snowfall Tuesday.

If the town spends more than the amount allotted for snow removal, Riverhead could be sending an additional bill to residents.

Last year, neighboring Brookhaven Town issued a $2.3 million bill to its residents to cover snow removal, which cost the average homeowner about $15, according to Brookhaven Supervisor Mark Lesko .

Riverhead, which is much smaller than Brookhaven, has about $70,000 left for overtime costs and $100,000 for salt and materials for 2011, Mr. Woodson said.

“If you go over [budget], then everything comes back to the taxpayer,” he said. “Our budget isn’t busted yet.”

The town has spent about $70,000 in overtime in January alone and about $75,000 for materials including salt, according to Mr. Woodson’s assistant, Susan Beal.

January 2011 is now the snowiest January in Long Island history, according to the National Weather Service in Upton. A reported 34.2 inches has fallen at Islip’s Long Island MacArthur Airport this month. The previous record was 21.5 inches set in 2005.

But the budget could be just one of our worries. Mr. Woodson said flooding might persist once the mountains of plowed snow begin to melt. Aside from hindering motorists’ views, the snow piles are also making it difficult for the town’s 33 highway workers to plow the town’s 444 miles of road lanes.

“The roads may get a little narrower if we get [an additional] 18 inches,” he said.

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Read more in the Feb. 3 issue of the News-Review.

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