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No Pothole Problems, But Snow Budget Concerns in Concord

Potholes aren't a big issue so far this winter, but town has plowed through nearly two-thirds of its snow and ice budget.

Photo via Concord-NH Patch
Photo via Concord-NH Patch

An interesting winter this has been so far.

Snowstorms, check. Wild temperature swings, check. Concerns about the snow and ice budget, check.

And while potholes haven't registered as a problem here in Concord, the town has already plowed through nearly two-thirds of its snow and ice budget for the season. 

As of Tuesday, Jan. 14, Concord Public Works crews have responded to 20 weather events so far this winter, twice as many as through this time last year, according to CPW Director Rich Reine.

Those weather events include three significant snowstorms and several “significant ice events.” 

The town has multiple levels of responses -- from the road treatment only, to all-hands plus contractors for a significant snowstorm -- and Reine credits his crews for the “outstanding effort they put into every response.”

Thus far this winter, Concord has spent more than $400,000 on snow removal operations, or just under two-thirds of the approximately $660,000 in the base snow and ice budget plus deficit allowance, Reine said.

“It’s shaping up to be an active season,” said Reine. “If it continues like this we’ll have to monitor it. It’ll be interesting to see how it goes January into February. … February is typically a very active month.”

Under Massachusetts state law, snow and ice removal is the one area where municipalities can deficit spend -- so long as the requisite local approvals are in place. Concord works with a meteorologist to help plan for the season, and builds its snow and ice budget around a 10-year average, Reine said. 

Wild temperature changes -- not to mention the polar vortex of last week -- have elevated concerns about black ice and potholes in communities across the region. 

Here in Concord, black ice has been a bit of an issue; potholes, not so much, according to Reine. 

“On many occasions this winter, it’s been widespread," Reine said of black ice.  "We’ve had temperatures come down and freeze all the moisture on the roadways.” 

Part of the reason Concord has so many weather events is the response to icy conditions. For example, just this past Saturday, it was a rainy day with warmer temperatures, but the pavement was just 27 degrees so the drizzle and runoff from snowmelt built up and froze on the streets.

Yet, while many communities have complained about potholes as a widespread problem this year -- heck, the state Department of Transportation even has a web page devoted to the off-putting openings -- Reine says potholes haven't registered as a problem this winter. 

"We’ve had crews out with the hot mix patching some of the more problematic areas," he said, "But I on’t see it being a larger issue than in years past." 

That's at least in part because of the town's investments in its paving program and pavement preservation program, Reine said, as cracked and failing roads are the most prone to potholes. 

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