Low snowfall a budget boon for many Wis. counties
By: By Dinesh Ramde, Associated Press, Superior Telegram
MILWAUKEE (AP) — Many parts of Wisconsin missed out on a white Christmas, but cash-strapped county officials aren't complaining.
The lack of powder is a welcome reprieve for counties that haven't had to spend as much as last year for plowing and salting. In Marathon County, highway commissioner Jim Griesbach said the county has spent about $300,000 less than at the same point as last winter.
"It's great for us. Basically it's saving our winter maintenance budget. That allows us to do general maintenance and fill cracks," Griesbach said. "It's nice to have a traditional white Christmas, but for the county, budget-wise, this is great news for us."
The good news will likely continue for at least a few weeks. The National Weather Service in Green Bay said the only storms expected in the next 10 days are weak systems that shouldn't leave more than a trace of snow.
"There's a chance of snow in the north on Thursday — not a big system, maybe another inch," meteorologist Tasos Kallas said Sunday. "But from what I've seen here, there really isn't a big winter storm (in the forecast)."
That's welcome news in places like Taylor County, where cleanup costs associated with an average snowstorm can be as much as $10,000 to $15,000 per day, according to highway commissioner Jess Sackmann.
Taylor County was already trying to compensate for a shortfall left over from last winter, when parts of the state saw periods of unrelenting snowfall. With a typical winter budget of $400,000, his county started the season about $100,000 over budget.
"I'm just hoping we can get to the end of the year without any snow," Sackmann said. "Every day that it doesn't snow helps."
Not so for businesses that depend on snow for revenue. Larger ski resorts have been making their own snow, but trails for snowmobiling and cross-country skiing have been opening slowly.
The lack of snow is a concern for those industries, but winter sports proprietors are well aware how unpredictable Mother Nature can be, said Lisa Marshall of the Wisconsin Department of Tourism.
"It's something we're watching, but the tourism industry is pretty resilient," she said. "We've had lots of years where snowfall has been erratic. Anyway, it's still early."
Kallas, the meteorologist, said the northern third of Wisconsin already had between 2 and 8 inches of snow on the ground, most of which fell early last week. He predicted that much of the snow would melt Monday, as temperatures across the state were expected to range from the high 30s to the low 40s.
Jerry Mandli, the commissioner of Dane County's public-works department, wouldn't mind if new snow stayed away a little longer. His department spent so much on highway cleanup between January and April that the current reprieve has been a great financial relief, he said.
"I can tell you, if it didn't snow until January, that would be great with our budget," he said.