Mild winter weather creates budget saving for Urbana, University

Snow and ice removal have not been a priority this year for the city of Urbana and the University because of the mild winter.

Illinois is experiencing its sixth warmest winter since 1895, said Jim Angel, state climatologist of the Illinois State Water Survey, and Urbana should be feeling the difference financially.

The 2011-2012 annual budget shows that $197,920 was allocated for snow and ice removal from municipal streets, alleys, and parking lots this season — a 5.9 percent change from last year when they had budgeted for $210,340.

“We are certainly spending far less than a year ago and even on average,” said Bill Gray, director of Urbana Public Works.

He added that because much of snow and ice removal is done in the middle of the night, a lot of the money the city is saving is a result of not having to pay employees overtime.

However, the city is not saving money on salt as the supply for the winter is bought at the beginning of the year.

“We will not have to buy any additional salt this year, which is a positive, and whatever is left will roll over for next year, which means we may not have to order as much salt next time,” Gray said.

Even though city workers are not removing snow and ice, they are being kept busy with other projects, such as street sweeping, concrete and sidewalk work and cleaning sewers.

Unlike the city of Urbana, the University does not set aside money in the budget specifically for snow and ice removal but is still taking advantage of the mild weather.

Andy Blacker, spokesman for Facilities and Services, said there is not a special staff for snow and ice removal. Building service workers in multiple departments, such as grounds, maintenance and transportation, have to balance the responsibility of snow and ice removal with their other jobs.

He added that although snow and ice removal is always a priority, less snowfall allows workers to finish other maintenance projects because of the extra time and money.

“There is a list of things that need to be done around campus that we are not always able to get to, and they are finished as the money presents itself,” he said.

However, despite the temperate weather so far, Gray warns, “Winter is not over until the spring, and I have seen crazy things happen. This weather is not normal for January, but it has been a positive.”