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Power of the plow

Onondaga County's towns and villages will be asked to plow an additional 61 miles of county roads this winter, the result of a provision in the adopted 2011 county budget.

The move is the first step in County Executive Joanie Mahoney's plan to completely turn over snow removal of the county's nearly 800 miles of roadway to the towns and villages by May 2012. In return, the county has budgeted to pay the various municipalities a total of $360,000.

Mahoney said that it's currently not possible to determine how much money the county could save with the initiative as it's currently in the process of negotiating with the towns and villages. At the moment, eight municipalities have agreed to take on more county roads next year.

Despite the uncertainty, Mahoney said that the county will conserve money if the towns and villages agree to plow the additional miles at the proposed rate of $5,910 per mile.

"We can't give you a dollar amount until some of the missing pieces falls into place," Mahoney said. "But we are confident that there is going to be a savings, ultimately, and that the service is going to be delivered at the appropriate municipal level."

Currently, Onondaga County is entering the last year of a three-year contract that pays the towns to plow 304 miles of the county's 793.5 miles of highway. This past season, the towns were paid $5,660 per mile for the plowing season, which was increased by $250 per mile in the 2011 budget.

Brian Donnelly, the county's commissioner of transportation, said that the price per mile was determined by a formula that looked at three specific areas -- Personnel, fuel and material costs -- all calculated back in 2008. The contract specified that personnel costs would be increased five percent every year, the material costs were determined by the county every year, and the fuel costs were dependent on projections made at the time.

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