Snow removal pushes Milwaukee past 2013 budget

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by Lane Kimble

MILWAUKEE -- Getting rid of more than a half foot of snow takes time and money.  All this early snow creates some problems in those departments for cities and residents alike.

"It is what it is," eastsider Barrett Wainscott said as he cleared off his car Monday.  "Everyone down here knows it comes every winter."

Milwaukee got more than seven inches, leaving the city and drivers digging out.

"There's not really much you can do," Wainscott said.  "When it comes, you wipe off your car, dig it out and move on with life."

That much snow can take city workers time -- and extra money -- to get roads cleared.

"We do our most effective job of plowing overnight," Department of Public Works' Wanda Booker said.

It takes DPW crews anywhere from 18 to 24 hours after the  snow stops to completely clear all roads.  Milwaukee budgeted $7.9 million in snow removal this year, but is already more than half a million past that.

"Some years you're over, some years you're under," Booker said.  "The last couple of years we had  very light, very mild snow.  We actually carried over a little over a million dollars from 2012 into  2013."

Milwaukee set aside $8.1 million for 2014.

Lots of snow doesn't mean all bad news for finances.  Birchwood Snow and Landscape Equipment in Cedarburg  has seen a sharp increase in business.

"[Winter] hasn't really skipped a beat," worker A.J. Burton said.  "Every couple days it's coming  and coming and coming."

That allows Birchwood to hire more workers.  But it also ends up costing you more in maintenance, supplies and finding places to put it.

"There's an equation there, the more snow, the more salt the more you're plowing, for sure," Jim Rupnow said as he picked up parts for his snowblower.

Birchwood offers some deals on salt and snowblower parts this time of year.  But the best thing you can do for your wallet and blood pressure is to get your equipment checked out.

"People will assume it's going to start up because it worked fine the last time they used it, but they come the first snowfall and go to start it up and nothing happens," Burton said.

The Milwaukee Department of Public Works needs you to keep working. There's no garbage pickup Tuesday or Christmas Day, but come Thursday they need you to clear off and around your garbage and recycling containers so they can access them.

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