BRUNSWICK — While the Midcoast saw above-average temperatures in recent weeks, Brunswick and Bath are hesitant to call their below-average winter cleanup expenses a sign of spring.

Over the past five years, Brunswick’s public works department has set its winter cleanup budget, which includes snow removal, sanding and salting, at an average of nearly $500,000.

According to Jay Astle, Brunswick’s public works director, Brunswick has used $214,000 of that budget, which is less than what the town typically uses by February. Astle said he expects to use about $396,000 by the end of the winter.

Neighboring Bath has used about 39% of its $260,000 budget, which includes snow removal, sanding, salting, and maintenance to snowplows and other equipment, according to Lee Leiner, Bath’s public works director.

Brunswick has seen 17 treatable events (which range from snowstorms to slick roads) since November 2019. Ten of those were plowable, meaning plows were used to clear the town’s 144 miles of roads and 39 miles of sidewalks.

Astle said 17 events is “on par with the average year,” but the town usually sees more than 10 plowable events by February. Those 10 plowable events have totaled 36.7 inches of snow from November 2019 to now, according to Astle, who said that’s well below what Brunswick typically sees by this point in the season.


“Two years ago we were at 90 to 100 inches in February,” he said.

According to the National Weather Service, Portland had an average daily temperature of 29.8 degrees Fahrenheit last month, above the normal daily average temperature of 22.3 degrees Fahrenheit.

Recent warmer temperatures melted snow and, Leiner said, “It seems normal to have a warm-up in January, but I suspect it’ll be cold until March.”

Midcoast towns have welcomed this stretch of weather after the Midcoast saw several November snowstorms last winter. In November 2018, Brunswick public works had three “major plows,” spending 15% of its allocated $195,000 for contracted services.

Astle said how much the town spends in total doesn’t depend solely on how much snow falls. If a storm comes on a weekend, it costs more to clear because plowing contractors are paid overtime. Costs also mount if plowing equipment needs substantial maintenance.

One thing that saves taxpayers a little money is Brunswick’s choice to only use salt instead of a combination of salt and sand when clearing roads after a storm. A practice used by the Maine Department of Transportation for over 20 years, Astle said it makes for cleaner roads when spring finally arrives.


“Sand doesn’t have any melting properties, so when you put it down … it doesn’t do anything proactively like salt does,” said Astle. “Come spring, we’re not going to have a lot of sand on the roads that we need to sweep or vacuum out of catch basins.”

Last year, Brunswick spent just over $45,000 on sand alone.

Astle and Leiner agreed it’s difficult to predict snow removal budgets from year to year and usually base their budgets on cost averages from years prior.

“It’s very hard to predict weather two days out much less one year out,” said Astle. “You don’t know until it happens and you do the best you can.”

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