The mild winter certainly means savings for Madison, but it will be a year before anybody in the city breaks out the champagne.
The catch is that the city budgets not by the season, but for the entire year. That includes next November and December, when the snow could be back. Still, city recycling coordinator George Dreckmann, who also helps with street maintenance, has hope. "If this trend continues, I'm sure we'll be turning back quite a bit of money."
Last year, the streets department saved $800,000 from mild winters. This year, the department budgeted $6,529,794 for snow and ice removal.
Other beneficiaries of a mild winter: the lakes. The city has dumped less sand and salt on the streets, and it's had more time to send out street sweepers to collect this debris, which otherwise would be washed into the storm sewers and eventually the lakes.
Last year at this time, the city had swept 350 miles of streets, collecting 45 tons of debris. This year, it has already swept 1,250 miles of streets, collecting 942 tons of debris.
Dan Behrend, highway operations manager for Dane County, says the county is also doing well for the year but, like Madison, budgets from January to December. He adds, "The winter season is not over with. Last year, we had a snowstorm in April."
Not everybody loves the mild winter. Plow operators get less overtime, and independent contractors get less work when they're called in to help.
In other streets department news, the city this week announced it has promoted Chris Kelley, a 33-year veteran of the department, to department superintendent. Kelley has been acting superintendent since Al Schumacher retired late last year.