2013 'an exceptional year ... for going over budget': Grado

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Justin Crann
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Mother Nature dumped on the city's 2013 operating budget.

A harsh and unusually long winter punctuated by high snowfall spun off into delays for the city's public works operations, culminating in an overblown budget for the department, according to Duane Grado, the department's manager.

"It was an exceptional year this year, for going over budget," Grado told the city's budget committee in the first of two day-long meetings Friday.

Among the areas that exceeded budget were the city's snow removal, flood control and street cleaning initiatives. 

Snow removal came in at double the budgeted amount, while flood control measures overblew the budgeted amount by five times — costing the city $225,000 against almost $44,000 in budgeted funds.

Street cleaning, by comparison, exceeded its budget by a more modest sum.

"We had such a late and wet spring, and even early summer, so that put us over by an additional $20,000," Grado said. "The repercussions from the extended winter we had, affected a lot of the public works tasks and the scheduling of the tasks. Everything was coming in late.

For example, in the street cleaning, we usually get started in April. We didn't get started until mid-May, and weren't done until July, which is very exceptional," he added.

And the delays in street cleaning snowballed into further setbacks.

"In the paved roads — which is a big budget for public works and engineering — we couldn't get into doing serious patches on the roads until early June, which is at least a month to six weeks (delay)," said Grado. "We hope to be out in late April each year."

The public works department is also facing a staffing shortfall in its parking meter wing, where two of four positions are unoccupied. Grado said that an employee had retired and another was on leave.

The shortage of employees was to blame for the city's inability to replace broken parking meters, Grado told budget committee.

Grado estimated the loss from broken meters could be "anywhere around $42 per day those meters are down, and some have been down for a few months now."

The repercussions from the extended winter we had, affected a lot of the public works tasks and the scheduling of the tasks. Duane Grado, public works manager

"It does have an impact, but that is smaller — we're focused more on getting the collecting of the money from the meters, that's most important," said Grado.

In total, the public works budget came is projected to come in at $3,465,636 for 2013 — almost $725,000 (or 26 per cent) over the budgeted amount. Almost all of that sum came out of street and road maintenance initiatives.

The department will see an almost 18 per cent funding increase, according to the preliminary operating budget for 2014.

The Times-Herald will have further details on the city's budget discussions online following Saturday's budget meeting and in Monday's print edition.

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