Unsparing snowfall strains town budgets | News

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Unsparing snowfall strains town budgets

PORTLAND, Maine (NECN) - With more than 70 inches of snow on the ground in Portland, Maine this year, the city has already exceeded the amount of snow it typically sees in an entire season.
And it's only February.
The "bumper crop" of snow is busting winter budgets, both on the home front and at City Hall. 
Marissa Zastro, a mother of 3 from Cumberland, Maine, says she came home to a fresh foot of snow in her driveway on Sunday.
And with her husband out of town, she says she had no choice. "I hired someone to plow the driveway."
Town budgets are getting stretched thin too.
In Cumberland, the town budgets $400,000 each winter to staff and clean up after five snow storms.
"It's very difficult," says Bill Shane, Cumberland's Town Manager. "We're already $50,000 ahead of last year and we're at the budget breaking point now." 
Shane says the next round of white will certainly put them in the red.
'There's no option. You have to plow the snow. You have to keep the streets safe," he says. 
In Portland, where public works crews must sand, salt and plow some 650 miles of street and another 95 miles of sidewalk---the budget crunch is magnified..
The city budgets 1.1 million dollars for snow removal, much of which covers the cost of overtime and contract workers.
So far this year, the city has exceeded its overtime budget by $150,000.
Many Maine counties may qualify for assistance from FEMA.
If that happens, FEMA would cover 75% of the town's most expensive snow days. The state would cover 15% and the rest would be picked up locally. 
"We're certainly hopeful," says Eric Labelle, Portland's Deputy Director of Public Works.
But they can't count on it. 
So local governments have to look for cuts elsewhere
Cumberland may delay some drainage work on the roads so the town can budget for it next year.
In Portland, no decisions have been made.
n the past the City Council has ordered their Public Works Department to freeze the budget for any non-essential work.
Labelle says that's for City Hall to decide. 
Of course, they can always hope for an early spring. But public works crews have to plan for what's in front of them, which in Maine, is another snow storm, expected to hit later this week.


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