PORTLAND – The pile of road salt that remains at the city’s public works facility on Hanover Street and the mountain of salt that’s stored on outer Congress Street, are reminders of how mild this winter was and how Portland will save thousands of dollars in next year’s budget.

The city started the winter with 8,000 tons of road salt. It has 3,500 tons left, said city spokeswoman Nicole Clegg.

Unless there’s another snowstorm, the city will have the salt for next winter and won’t have to buy as much as it usually does. Harsh winters can deplete the city’s supply of road salt and force it to buy more.

This year, Portland has $300,000 left in its snow removal budget — it started with $1 million. Clegg said the money will be returned to the city’s surplus fund.

Portland isn’t the only beneficiary of the mild winter. Scarborough and Westbrook officials say their snow removal budgets are healthy as record-setting temperatures drive people to beaches and golf courses instead of ski resorts.

Mike Cempa, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Gray, said Portland’s high temperature of 79 on Wednesday shattered the record of 60 degrees, set in 1946.

And, he said, “There is no snow in the forecast, at least not for the next week.”

Cities and towns aren’t quite ready to mothball their snow removal equipment, because there’s always a chance of snow in late March or early April.

An April Fool’s Day snowstorm in 2011 dropped more than 6 inches of snow on Portland and more than 12 inches on inland towns, including Gray.

Mike Shaw, Scarborough’s public works director, said he budgeted $106,000 for snow removal overtime expenses this year, and has spent only $48,000.

He said the 1,200 tons of salt and 2,400 tons of sand used so far is about what he anticipated, so there won’t be much left for next winter.

Scarborough must keep 58 miles of roads clear of snow and ice. Few towns surpass Scarborough’s sprawling road system, Shaw said.

He said many smaller-scale storms that brought snow and sleet kept his crews busy.

“An inch is as good as a foot in our business,” he said.

Westbrook’s snow removal budget is “in tremendous shape,” said City Administrator Jerre Bryant.

Bryant said the city still has ample supplies of salt and sand, which will reduce the cost in next year’s budget.

The city has $121,000 left in its snow removal budget. The money will go into the city’s surplus fund if it’s not spent.

“If we had had a typical winter, we would have been in real trouble because the cost of fuel went up,” Bryant said.

Though there is no snow left to plow, Bryant said city crews are keeping busy sweeping sand off the streets.

“We are still ready (for a snowstorm). It’s only March,” he said.

Staff Writer Dennis Hoey can be contacted at 791-6365 or at:

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