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Mild winter lets Manlius, Marcellus highway departments stay ahead

Last year’s winter was one of the harshest and snowiest in recent memory, making life difficult for many Syracuse residents. This year has been a different story entirely — most of the time snow has not been a concern.

This January, 24.6 inches of snow fell at Hancock International Airport, which was less than the month’s average of 34 inches and well below last year’s mark of 43.4 inches, according to the National Weather Service.

This trend has held up for all the winter months, resulting in a smaller need for the streets to be plowed by local highway departments.

This has provided an opportunity for these departments to get caught up on other work for his staff, said town of Manlius Highway Superintendent Rob Cushing.

“We’re catching up on work we wouldn’t normally have time to finish in the fall, so this weather is giving us an advantage to some extent,” Cushing said.

With the extra time, the highway department has been cutting trees, removing stumps, dealing with drainage ditches and doing maintenance to equipment.

The department has also done a number of jobs it ordinarily does in April as part of its annual spring cleanup, such as fixing lawns and replacing mailboxes that were damaged by plows. However, it is still February and more snow could come at any time, Cushing said.

“The trouble with this job is that we are really at mercy of what the weather does and that is all out of my control,” he said.

Though the department buys its salt supply and budgets its overtime pay for workers in advance of the season, these things are considered based on a ten-year average. So every down year for snowfall, like this year, is balanced out by a harsher season, like last year, he said.

The town of Marcellus has been doing similar work this winter, such as working on equipment maintenance and cleaning up brush, said Deputy Superintendent Michael Ossit.

Marcellus has also been taking extra time to prepare for some spring projects such as reconditioning roads and working on drainage ditches. These projects will start soon, weather permitting, Ossit said.

“There’s always something to do,” he said.

Joe Genco is an editorial intern with the Eagle Bulletin. Reach him at joedgenco@gmail.com.

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