Old fashioned' winter taking toll on highway crews, schools

Schools and highways departments have been under the weather this year, trying to cope with consecutive snowstorms. Talking about the results of frequent snowfalls with regional officials startles a dry laugh out of most of them. Highway departments under pressure
Jay Department of Public Works director Chris Garrow said winter had gone on long enough from his crews perspective. It's been constant back-to-back snowstorms. You can't seem to get cleaned up from one before the next one's bearing down, said Garrow. Using a crew of 11, the Jay highway department operates six machines on runs that take four hours to complete. He said crews were working 16- to 20-hour days when needed to keep the roads clear. Snow removal has been very tough - we've had some machines break down, and were not always as quick as people would like it, said Garrow. Along with the amount of man hours that go into plowing the roads, highway departments face increases in the cost of materials, Garrow said. Sand, salt and cutting edges for plows have all gone up in price. Westport DPW superintendent Jerry Sherman agreed winters hit the region hard. It's been absolutely terrible. We've spent an enormous amount of time on overtime, and I don't think we've ever used as much sand and salt, said Sherman. In 2006-7, the Westport highway crew used 1,150 yards of sand and 319 yards of salt total. So far this winter, the crew has used 1,872 yards of sand and 534 yards of salt. Overtime has also increased for the Westport crew of five men, with 472 hours put in last year, while 549 hours were used through Valentines Day this year. Sherman said most of the crews efforts were used keeping the roads open. We've got a lot of sidewalks we normally take care of, but they have to take a backseat to our roads getting cleared. We've been so busy this year we haven't been able to do a good job with our sidewalks, said Sherman. Both Garrow and Sherman offered reminders for people not to plow snow into the roads when clearing driveways. Along with being illegal, it makes it more difficult for highway crews to clear roads, and also presents a hazard for drivers. One of my constituents almost got into an accident because of that, said Garrow. When a snowstorm socks the region, Garrow advised people to take their time, and asked for patience. We're doing the best we can - we'll get there as soon as we can, said Garrow. School closures may lead to lost vacation days
Cynthia Johnston, superintendent of Keene Central School, called it a typical Adirondack winter. She said the last few years have been lighter on snow, but this school year had brought plenty of weather and power problems. KCS has six snow days built into its school calendar, and has already used four. Johnston said she was concerned the school would run out, since March traditionally presents a strong storm, and flooding also occurs in spring. Au Sable Valley Central School Superintendent Paul Savage agreed the winter had been difficult. The school has also used four of its six snow days so far. The size of the AVCS district means additional challenges, since the weather can vary greatly from one region of the 300-square-mile district to another. One time, the school had to dismiss students at 10 a.m. Savage said a new system of parental notification had worked. I'm feeling somewhat comfortable knowing we have two left, but you never know, said Savage. If the school used all its days, classes would have to be held during a planned vacation day. Willsboro Central School Superintendent Steven Broadwell said his school had things well-planned. The school has used three of its four school days, but contingency days are already lined up in the calendar if needed. We're in the same boat as other schools, but we're in good shape overall. We'd like to see winter end as much as the road crews, said Broadwell. Whiteface on track for record year
If theres one group thats enjoying the frequent snowfalls, its winter sporting enthusiasts. At Whiteface Mountain, manager Jay Rand reported ski visitations were up 40 percent from last year, and that it looked like it would be a record year. Snowstorms are almost always a positive draw for ski areas. In addition to Mother Nature, our snowmaking system has been improved which allows us to get more terrain open quicker at the beginning of the year and also to recover faster from adverse weather conditions, said Rand. Overall, the weather has been favorable, although there have been several thaws adding rain.

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