Colorado’s Wild Weather Year Leaves Cities And Counties At Their Snow Budget Limits

Hart Van Denburg/CPR News
A major winter storm blew into Denver overnight and plows were out on city streets early Tuesday Nov. 26 2019

With more than a week left until the end of 2019, Adams County and the cities of Colorado Springs and Fort Collins are all over their snow removal budget for the calendar year. Durango and Denver are about to hit their cap. 

You can bet that the Thanksgiving snow-fest didn’t help, but there was also that early March snow explosion.

“The Bomb Cyclone required us to have staff working for three or four days straight, 12-hour shifts on and off,” Adams County Public Works Director Kristen Sullivan said.

Adams County splits its snow removal budget into two categories: labor and ice control. They’re over budget for both. The total overtime budget is $300,000 per year and the county is about 14 percent over and overspent $200,000 more than expected for ice control. Sullivan said there were other areas that didn’t require as many funds so the whole department is still on target without seeking more budget approval.

Fort Collins’ budget for snow removal for 2019 was $1.2 million, a constant for the past six years, according to Director of Transportation Operations Larry Schneider. That wasn’t enough and the city ended up needing an extra $900,000. To make up that difference, the city digs into their reserves in their planning, development and transportation department.

Colorado Springs is about $100,000 over their $1.3 million budget, not including the recent snowstorm the city just had to clean up.

Corey Farkas, the Public Works Operations and Maintenance Division Manager, for Colorado Springs notes they “don’t have typical winters.”

“It’s difficult to look into a crystal ball and try to second guess Mother Nature,” he said. “It’s not like we’re going to say ‘Well, we can’t plow anymore because we’re over-budget.’” 

Like Adams County, Farkas said that Colorado Springs relies on extra savings within the department to stay within the overall budget.

Durango’s snow budget is $708,000 and Levi Lloyd, the director of operations, said he expects the city to use all of it by the end of the year. The plan is that they’ll stay on budget but if there is another unexpected snowstorm, the city could go over by $10,000. Durango used to have a higher snow budget, around $900,000 in 2009 and 2010, but tax cuts made that number an impossible one to stay at. 

Denver has a $5.5 million snow removal budget and like Durango, the city will just scrape by assuming no extreme snowstorms happen before New Year’s Eve.