Freeport storm budget weathers blizzard
FREEPORT — Town officials are hoping Maine's southern coast has seen the last of its winter snow storms.
After several heavy storms this season landed mostly on the weekends, including the Feb. 8-9 blizzard that dumped more than 30 inches of snow in some areas, the town has exhausted its overtime budget for winter operations.
But the town is actually better off this year than in previous years, having spent about $31,000 less than the total budget of $207,000.
Although the overtime budget of $64,000 has been exceeded by more than $6,500, savings from winter road salt costs – which were almost $36,000 less this year due to lower prices and improved salting technology – more than made up for the increase.
Freeport and other towns are now hoping to get federal disaster relief funding, with the help of a request from Gov. Paul LePage, to add a cushion in case of another storm, Town Manager Peter Joseph said.
"If the winter storm season ended today, there would not be an extraordinary need for the disaster relief funds in order to balance the Public Works budget," Joseph said in an email. "However, as much as we hate to admit it, there is still plenty of time between now and April for a major storm, which could send us significantly over budget as a whole. The disaster relief funds would help us to avoid this situation."
If the governor's request for a disaster declaration is granted, the town could receive more than $69,000, according to Joseph.
Public Works Superintendent Earl Gibson said in a typical year it usually takes only one night to clean up after a storm. But this year's storm required two nights to clear the roads.
And although this storm was a record-setter, Gibson said he has weathered worse.
"It's the biggest storm in Maine, yes sir, but not the biggest storm I've seen," he said, adding that before he moved to Freeport he worked in the same field in the Northwest. "I've seen bigger storms out there, believe me."
Despite the immensity of the February storm, the town's Public Works Department encountered minimal problems, Gibson said.
"Everything went real good," he said "It was a good storm."