An old-fashioned winter is forcing more overtime for crews.
TOWN OF WALES – They have a name for this kind of winter.
"An old-fashioned winter," said Michael Zywar, the highway superintendent for the Town of Wales. "When I was a worker here, back in the late eighties early nineties, this was a typical winter."
Zywar has spent 17 years in this department, including the last dozen as the highway superintendent. Between the three-foot behemoth of a storm he saw in December, the blizzard in January and an impending early February snowfall this week, Zywar's two crew members have logged about 100 extra hours of overtime compared to last year.
But that's nothing compared to the Town of Hamburg, where Highway Superintendent Tom Best said crews have already accumulated 931 more hours of overtime this winter— good for a record pace. The town has also used 60 to 70 percent of its salt, potentially adding even more extra costs.
"And we still got a rough winter ahead of us here," Best said. "So I am worried. I'm worried about tomorrow. We could get [snowstorms] five times again before March."
Best said he will be "begging" the Town Board for funding this winter. Fortunately for Wales, Zywar said he budgeted for overtime costs since he was able to cut back during the past few mild winters. His town is also more rural than Hamburg, meaning his crews don't use as much salt. In fact, the increased snowfall totals and higher demand for plowing actually mean the highway department can use less salt. Zywar said he's yet to hit his salt quota for the winter and had even found in the past that he'd sometimes ordered too much salt.
Highway superintendents in Collins, Eden, Aurora and West Seneca also reported using more overtime hours for their crews, although not nearly as many as Hamburg.
And the problem for everyone is obvious: it's only early February.
"My winter ends when the plows come off the road on Mother's Day Weekend, because back in '90 or '91, I was working here and the boss called on Mother's Day. I thought she was laughing… you know, kidding us," Zywar said. "And we got a foot of snow."
"So winter's done when it's finally 70 degrees out all the time."