Watertown city council approves purchase to aid in snow removal

The Watertown City Council during its Jan. 22 meeting approved the purchase of a $14,000 snow blower that  is expected to change the way the city clears snow from the downtown area, improve the efficiency and safety of the process and save the city from making an even bigger expenditure during the 2013 fiscal year.

The council unanimously approved the purchase of a new Erskine Blower at the cost of $13,931, a purchase that the city hopes will not only improve its snow clearing capabilities, but also reduce wear and tear on other, even more costly equipment.

In establishing a new Capital Improvement Plan (CIP) as part of the 2013 budgeting process, the council discussed the need to replace the city’s aging loader, which is used in part for snow removal in the downtown area. Because the city does not have cash available for purchasing a new one at this time — it is expected to cost more than $30,000 — the council explored other options for snow removal.

That option turned out to be a snow blower, which will be mounted on the front of the city’s tractor to load snow into the back of dump trucks. Using this method, the city will change its overall strategy for clearing snow downtown. Instead of stockpiling snow, or directly loading it into dump trucks, city crews will “windrow” the snow into the center of the street and then blow it directly into trucks.

The city believes this will reduce the amount of time it takes to clear the downtown area, but perhaps even more importantly, Public Service Superintendent Bill Boettner said it should improve the safety of the process as well. Clearing efforts will now be done with the regular directional flow of traffic. The blower can also be used to blow back snow banks at intersections, thus improving visibility.

The real benefit to the city, though, comes not in the way the snow will be plowed, but in the money the city will save, at least in the short term. While the purchase of this blower does not eliminate the need to replace the loader, it does save an estimated $14,000 from this year’s budget and allows the city to better plan for the purchase as part of the new CIP.

“This doesn’t get us out of (buying a loader), but it hopefully buys us some time to gather some cash for a purchase like that,” city administrator Luke Fischer said.

It is expected that even after the city eventually does purchase a new loader, the blower will still continue to be used to remove snow from downtown streets.

Contact Matt Bunke at [email protected]