Mild winter a boon for construction projects

By Paul Harris

During most winters, area construction companies and the city’s public works department usually adopt a wait-and-see mode. Not this winter. The mostly warm weather has provided a chance for them to get a jump on projects.

“We are able to continue to work on concrete pavement affairs longer than anticipated,” Dale Houdeshell, the city’s director of the public works, said. “Normally we have to shut that off until it warms up again.”

Not only is the city able to continue its maintenance projects longer, but crews are not backlogged by winter projects such as sealing potholes created by the colder weather.

Not only is the city saving time, it is also saving money.

During snow clean up, workers are paid overtime and the city has to spend money on snow-fighting chemicals such as salt.

From November 2010 to March 2011, the city spent approximately $22,000 in overtime according to Emily Campbell, who is assistant finance director for Manhattan. Between November 2011 and January 2012, the city spent only a little more than a tenth as much on overtime, saving nearly $20,000.

State Climatologist Mary Knapp said that during the five-month stretch from November 2010 to March 2011, there were six days when accumulated snowfall was above an inch. There have not been any this year.

Because the city typically buys its snow-fighting chemicals in advance, Campbell said it is hard to determine the actual savings in that department. But those excess supplies can be saved for next winter.

The nice weather has also put area construction companies ahead of schedule.

Brett Ballou, president of Shilling Construction, said the company is “a month ahead of where we would be coming out of winter.” With the nice winter, Shilling has been able to pour concrete, something that can be impossible when temperatures all below a certain level. Ron Cheney, owner of Cheney construction, said his company has been able to get outside and pour concrete as well, but most of Cheney’s work has been inside this winter. 

A normal winter forces both companies to usually play the part of a fortune teller. “We would typically pick our points in the week if saw the weather was going to be nice with consecutive days,” Ballou said.

“We have done stuff outside before,” Cheney said. “We just have to take measures to get it done.”

The warm weather has also boosted the morale of both companies’ workers.

“Guys are not fighting the cold all day,” Ballou said. “It helps their mood and helps their productivity and quality of the job.”

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