While many communities north of the Yankton area have had their hands full with snow removal this season, local officials are enjoying a much milder winter.
Yankton Public Services Director Kevin Kuhl said that last Wednesday was only the second time this season that the city has undertaken a complete plowing of all its streets.
And according to Yankton County Highway Superintendent Brian Gustad, county crews have “only been out a handful of times.”
“This is a below-normal number of events for a typical winter,” Kuhl said. “Most of the time, we’ve been able to manage the moisture that’s hit the pavement with the use of sanding and (road salt).”
The Associated Press reported earlier this month that many communities across the country that rely on road salt to help control road conditions have suffered from low supplies of the substance nationwide. However, Kuhl and Gustad said salt inventory is not a problem locally.
“We’ve learned that the best thing to do is to keep your facilities full so that you don’t get caught,” Kuhl said. “When you need it the worst, that’s when everyone else needs it also.”
One of the primary upsides of the lack of snow has been the financial benefits.
Yankton City Finance Officer Al Viereck said the city saved roughly $79,000 in the fiscal year that ended Dec. 31, and it has spent little of the $202,000 budgeted for snow removal this year. The cost of plowing the entire city varies, he said, but averages around $20,000.
Gustad said the county’s budget has also benefited, but he did not have detailed numbers available Friday.
In addition to the financial advantages, the below-average amount of snowfall has also allowed city and county workers to focus on other projects.
Kuhl said the city has done significant maintenance to several pieces of equipment and has also worked to catch up on tree removal.
“What’s nice about mild winters is we have something to show for our efforts instead of it all melting away,” he said.
Gustad said the weather has been too cold to do much work outdoors, but his crew members have been busy dealing with trees and signs that have blown over from strong winds. They have also been preparing for the upcoming construction season.
“Every little bit helps,” he said.
While the dry conditions have helped in several areas, they haven’t produced all good news, Gustad said. Several roads are hurting due to the lack of moisture combined with the cold temperatures, he said.
“The frost is so deep, they’re heaving and hoeing,” he said.
Gustad also cautioned that conditions could change quickly.
“Keep in mind we have a lot of winter left,” he said.