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SNOW IS BURYING BOUNTIFUL’S BUDGET

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An overabundance of the white stuff is quickly drawing the green out of city coffers.

"We have some major budgetary problems," City Manager Tom Hardy said.Last month, 63.5 inches of snow dropped on the Bountiful bench, the largest amount for any November on record, said Barry Nielsen of Bountiful-based Weather Facts. That's twice what Salt Lake International Airport got this year, and exceeds every other city on the Wasatch Front, according to Bill Alder of the National Weather Service.

In comparison, Alder reports Holladay received 47.0 inches last month. Centerville weighed in at 35.5 inches.

Bountiful had 7,000 tons of salt set aside to clear roads at the start of the season. That's enough for an average winter's snowfall.

"We rarely plow before Thanksgiving," Hardy said.

But this year, the city has already used 6,000 tons of salt, leaving only 1,000 tons for the rest of the winter.

Hardy said the streets department has ordered 5,000 tons more salt at a total cost of $65,000 ($13 per ton). That essentially depleted the city's special-supplies account, leaving nothing more for salt or for next spring's street asphalt repair, which is financed by the same fund.

The salt isn't the only expense. Snowplow drivers working overtime also put a strain on the budget at an average rate of $18 per hour. To plow after a big storm, with salt, equipment, and 20 drivers working overtime, "You're looking at basically $500 per hour to do the operation," Hardy said.

Many drivers worked 70- to 80-hour weeks in November, with the average workweek at 68 hours.

The city has $85,000 left in a contingency fund to finance the continuing snow battle, but Hardy said if the snow keeps falling, that won't be nearly enough.

"If December, January and February continue as November, we will be $200,000 or $300,000 over (the contingency fund), and we'll have to ask you to open the budget," Hardy told the City Council Wednesday.

What that means is the city will dip into its last-resort emergency fund, its "unappropriated reserves," of a little over $1 million.

"That really is meant for emergencies," Hardy said. "You never like to dip into your reserves, but if you have to you have to. It's better than not plowing snow."

Bountiful also wants residents to improve their snow etiquette. The City Council decided last week to declare any car parked on the street between 2 and 6 a.m. from November to March, or within 12 hours of a snowstorm, a public nuisance.

That means the city has clear authority to tow, not just ticket, the car.

"This just gives us a more solid foundation," said City Attorney Russell Mahan. "We haven't (towed) in the past - but we need to."

The 12-hour prohibition does not apply on Main Street between 500 South and 400 North.

In addition, if a resident does not clear the snow on the sidewalk in front of his house within 24 hours after a storm, the city can remove the snow and charge the resident for the expense, in order to keep children from walking in the street.

"They will walk where it's clear," Mayor John Cushing said.

It is illegal for residents to shovel or blow snow into the street, though no one has been ticketed for that - yet.

"We're not going to have the shovel patrol around to make sure you shovel (the snow) back onto your property," Hardy said.