© Paul Hutchings
A snowplow works during one of the storms this winter in Deer Lake. The town has seen an increase in overtime and salt use, but still has not gone over budget for snowclearing.
DEER LAKE — So far this winter the Town of Deer Lake has burned through an estimated 350 tonnes of the 500 tonnes of salt it ordered at the beginning of the season, which is probably about 30-40 per cent more than was used this time last year.
In the month of January, nearly $4,000 came out of the budget for overtime and in the same month the department spent nearly $8,000 in fuel because of the extreme weather the area has been experiencing.
“It’s been a rough winter, that’s for sure,” said superintendent Dave Thomas. “It’s presented us with challenges we haven’t seen in the past few years.”
The total set aside for snowclearing in the town’s municipal budget is just over $285,000. Because everything depends on the weather, officials aren’t sure how close they may come to going over the snowclearing budget, but Mayor Dean Ball said it’s not something the town needs to worry about just yet.
“We do have a contingency plan in place, but we’re not worried about going over at this point,” said Ball. “If we can get a break in the weather we can then play catch up and hopefully get further ahead.”
The mayor said this winter isn’t the worst he’s seen.
“But it’s close, we’re getting there,” he said. “This isn’t any different than any other municipality, we just do the best we can.”
The town’s snowblower has been out 14 times so far this winter. Salt is being used almost daily and most days, Thomas said, the streets and roads have been cleared three or four times.
A couple of weeks ago conditions were so bad people started shovelling snow out of their driveways and into the streets, prompting the town to ask the RCMP to issue a warning stating that the action was illegal.
The RCMP has been repeatedly issuing warnings over the last few months for drivers to slow down during stormy periods. Deer Lake had to set up a warming station last month because of severe power outages.
And it’s not over yet, said Thomas.
“We’ll just have to stay ready for whatever winter throws at us,” he said.