Halfway Through Winter, Boston Used Almost Double Its Snow Removal Budget
By Richard Weir
The succession of mega-snowstorms that have buried Boston's streets have also obliterated the city's snow removal budget by more than $11 million and now wiped out two holidays for Boston school kids, City Hall announced yesterday.
Mayor Martin J. Walsh said the city has spent more than $30 million on snow removal this winter, greatly exceeding the $18.5 million it budgeted based on a five-year average of snow-clearing costs. But this winter has been anything but average, with the storm ending Monday dropping another 23.1 inches on Boston, bringing the city's total snowfall in the past 17 days to a record-shattering 71 inches -- or nearly 6 feet -- almost twice the average winter snowfall of 43.8 inches.
Boston school officials, who exceeded the seven allotted snow days by one day with yesterday's cancellation, met with union officials yesterday and agreed to open classrooms on Evacuation Day on March 17 and Bunker Hill Day on June 17. Teachers union members will meet today to vote on working March 17 without additional pay, and vote later about Bunker Hill Day. Acting Superintendent John McDonough said having school on both holidays will build in "one excess day if we have another snow day," while meeting the contracted end-of-school date of June 30.
Two more storms are already predicted. National Weather Service meteorologist Hayden Frank said tomorrow's storm will drop several inches, followed by a larger coastal storm expected this weekend.
With only one snow day to spare, Walsh said he might be tempted to open schools after a 4-inch snowstorm, but student safety will be paramount.
"We will figure out where to make up school," he said, adding Saturdays and April vacation days are also in the mix as additional make-up dates, if needed. "I'm not going to risk the safety of young people just for the sake of losing a school day."
Walsh said the city, which is applying for federal emergency funds to defray last month's blizzard costs, will launch a major clearing blitz today with the emergency parking ban still in effect until 5 p.m.
Clearing snow piles from street corners will be a top priority so fire trucks and ambulances can navigate tight turns. Walsh said he is reluctant to seek a state exemption to dump snow in Boston Harbor.
"We're finding trash coming through the snow-melters," he said. "So we have concerns about putting that in the harbor."
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