After five days of lake-effect weather last week, 51 inches, or just over four feet, of snow had descended on the town of Manlius.
During an average winter, snowfall is approximately 110 to 120 inches; the Eastern suburb is almost halfway there and it's only December. But Highway Superintendent Rob Cushing said he's prepared for whatever Mother Nature has in store.
The town of Manlius Highway Department owns 10 large salt/sander combination trucks and five small pickup trucks. With heavy snowfalls, every truck is out on its specified route.
"We plow 107 miles of town road plus 11 miles of Onondaga County road," Cushing said. "With a typical snowstorm, each plow route takes us approximately three and a half to four hours to complete."
The department has 23 full-time employees whose daily work hours stretch as long as necessary to keep the roads safe to drive. Over the past five years, the town has used on average 7,500 tons of salt per year. The winter budget (snow removal, salt and other associated costs) is roughly 50 percent of the highway department's $4 million budget for 2011. Cushing said the department did not take any direct cuts as a loss of county sales tax revenue, and has not yet felt the stress of the town's cuts. At this point, the highway department has all the necessary equipments, manpower and materials to keep Manlius roads safe and clear, Cushing said.
"We were certainly well aware of the current revenue shortfall to governmental agencies when requesting the 2011 budget appropriations and presented a budget reflecting those circumstances," he added. "We will do our best to work within the boundaries of the budget that the town board awarded, and feel we can do so without a reduction of services to the town residents."
Cushing also noted that drivers, too, have a critical role to play in keeping the roads safe.
"Be patient and respectful," he said. "Please allow us time to perform our duties [and] allow plenty of space between your car and the snowplows."
Additionally, residents should be mindful of keeping children away from snowbanks near the road.