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Not much left in Owen Sound's snow-clearing budget

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Almost all of the money set aside in the 2013 budget for clearing city streets and sidewalks of snow and ice was eaten up in the first three months of the year.

Only about $80,000 - or 16% - of the half-million-dollar budget is left.

That’s not unusual, said financial services director Wayne Ritchie, and the city has about $400,000 in an unallocated reserve fund just in case Owen Sound gets battered again by snow this autumn.

“Touch wood, it hasn’t been very often in the 11 years I’ve been here you’ve had a bad spring and a bad fall. It seems to be you either have a bad spring with a lot of snow and a very light fall or vice versa,” he said Monday.

“That’s really why we’ve put that $400,000 aside into a reserve. For that year where we have both a bad spring and a bad fall, we’ll have something to fall back on.”

The wintry weather early this year “greatly impacted” several divisions of the city in the first quarter of 2013, Ritchie told the financial advisory committee.

About $419,375 has been spent on snow and ice removal for city streets and sidewalks.

Money spent to pump and collect leachate for treatment from the closed Genoe landfill site also exceeded the amount budgeted for the first quarter of 2013 due to a heavier spring runoff.

Parking revenue was down in the first three months of the year due to the number of days that enforcement staff did not write tickets because of the amount of snow around the meters. Parking expenses, on the other hand, were up because municipal lots had to be cleared of snow more often.

The city had a “slight deficit” as of March 31, but that has been cut down over the last two months, Ritchie said.

“In this business, we are really contingent on the seasons of the year. Normally what you see is we spend a lot of money in the spring, coming out of the late winter, and then our operating expenses tend to level off during the summer — and that’s when we do our capital work — and then in the fall they can go up again depending on how the snow is,” he said.

Owen Sound had a nearly $825,000 surplus at the end of 2012. About $180,000 of it was put into a “stability reserve” which city officials said can be used if costs for winter road and sidewalk maintenance exceed the budget in future years.

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