Globe Editorial

Snow removal: No time for austerity

A mountain of snow has been collected A mountain of snow has been collected (Bill Sikes/ Associated Press)
January 29, 2011

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The taxpayer-fueled quest for smaller, cheaper government doesn’t extend to snow removal. Municipal managers worth their salt subscribe to the “plow now, pay later’’ theory.

Many cities and towns low-ball their snow removal budgets, knowing full well that the budget certification crowd at the state Department of Revenue will let them slide into the next budget year. After all, there’s no way of knowing what winter will bring. And whatever comes has to go. Snow removal is that rare area of government where deficit borrowing doesn’t bring down the house.

Clever city officials like those in Quincy experiment with ways to save on snow removal, such as paying contractors by the amount removed instead of the hours spent on the job. It cuts down on idling time. In Manchester-by-the-Sea, officials are taking the risky tactic of scaling back on overnight snow removal as a way to reduce overtime. That announcement was met by icy stares from townspeople. No city and town can afford to cut corners when it comes to snow removal.