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Westfield DPW Overtime Costs Spike as Crews Plow Snow and Fix Potholes

Jill D'Ambrosio

Thursday, February 27, 2014 • 11:36am

WESTFIELD, NJ — Town leaders are projecting hefty cost increases for the department of public works for both road repairs and snow removal after this winter’s onslaught of storms.

“Because both the winter weather and our response to it are continuing, we have not yet calculated the final cost of snow-related expenses,” said Councilman Sam Della Fera, chairman of the town council’s finance committee.

“We do know that our DPW overtime expenses have increased approximately $75,000 over last year. In addition, we will show increased expenditures for salt and related supplies,” he said.

Della Fera noted that Westfield saw a similar increase in snow-related costs during the winter of 2010-11, which kicked off when a blizzard hit the area on Dec 26. Town leaders, however, expect this year’s costs to exceed that earlier winter, given the number of snowstorms.

Westfield’s 2013 fiscal year ended on Dec. 31, and the council is in the process of formulating the 2014 budget to introduce in March.

“As a result of this harsh winter, we will include higher anticipated expenditures relating to snow removal and road repairs in the 2014 budget when it is finalized,” said Della Fera. “Those expenses are generally part of our DPW budget including for wages, overtime, road salt and asphalt.”

As with year-round road repairs, Westfield does not break out costs for snow removal, but includes it in the DPW budget. Any DPW money that is not fully spent in a given year becomes surplus funds the following year.

With icy snow banks making streets narrower, driving around town recently has been a challenge. Drivers are taking extra precautions to avoid hitting the deep, wide potholes that can puncture a tire, bend wheel rims or wreak havoc on alignment.

Westfield resident Camille Prip, a mother of four, who just experienced her third flat tire of the winter caused by potholes got one of her flats on Sycamore Street. She’s filed a claim with the town.

"It's so jarring. They're huge," said Prip.

Martha Friend, a Westfield mother of three who drives a new minivan, is most worried about swerving to avoid a pothole and hitting another car.

“I don’t want to risk any of it,” Friend said.

Councilman Frank Arena, chairman of the public works committee, called pothole repairs a “top priority” for the town. Work on both town and county roads has already begun.

Pothole formation begins when water seeps into cracks in the pavement. During cold weather this water freezes and expands, forming gaps in the pavement or underlying soil. Once warmer weather thaws the ice, the road is left weakened by these gaps and can crater under the pressure of passing cars, creating a pothole.

Pothole repair is best done in warm, dry conditions.

“We have crews out right now,” said Arena last week during a welcome warm spell. “We have our work cut out for us.”

Resident Julie Steinberg, a mother of two, is grateful to see town road crews starting to patch the potholes.

“This is pervasive. It’s the small roads in Westfield. It’s the big roads in Westfield,” she said.

Della Fera and Arena encouraged residents who see potholes on Westfield roads to call 908-789-4100, option 3, or to email the DPW at dpw@westfieldnj.gov with concerns. A form to report potholes to Westfield’s "Pot Hole Patrol" can be found on the DPW web page, as well. The town will include information and updates on repairs on its site, www.westfieldnj.gov.

In addition, Rutgers University professor Dr. Wansoo Im has teamed up with Jersey Shore Hurricane News and GIS technology company Vertices New Jersey to create a map that shows the thousands of potholes that have opened around New Jersey this winter. See it at http://mappler.net/njpothole. Users can report potholes with a new app by downloading "MapplerK."

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