Thursday, March 15th, 2012
By Shelley Grieshop
Scant snowfall, ample savings
  What a difference a year makes.
The mild winter season has saved Mercer County more than $300,000 in snow and ice removal costs compared to last winter.
"It's been an exceptionally warm winter," county engineer Jim Wiechart said this morning.
The 2010-2011 winter was the costliest of the last five years; taxpayers doled out $416,400 to keep rural roadways passable.
The savings reaped this year will allow for more road paving projects than planned and help build the agency's carryover balance for 2013, Wiechart said. Funds also will be stowed for a new engineer's building to be constructed in the future on the west end of Celina, he added.
Auglaize County Engineer Doug Reinhart said last year at this time his department had spent $155,520 for materials such as salt and grit. This year the agency paid less than $50,000 in materials and the savings doesn't stop there.
"We've easily saved over $30,000 in diesel fuel," he added.
A long day of snow plowing typically eats up $5,000 in fuel, Reinhart explained. Last year, he was forced to borrow $60,000 from road paving funds to pay for snow removal costs.
"I'd like to think I'll be able to do the reverse this year," he said.
Both counties dispatched trucks about 15 times this winter to plow and spread salt/grit mixtures. Crews last year were called out more than 50 times, officials said.
Without snow and bitter cold, county crews are ahead of their normal spring schedule. In Mercer County, bridge and pipe replacement work began several weeks earlier than normal. Auglaize County crews have gotten a head start on ditch and culvert work.
It may be difficult to believe, but local snowfall totals are only about 3 inches below the season average of 31 inches, according to local weather forecaster Dennis Howick.
"I get that reaction from everybody," he said, explaining several people have questioned his figures. "Nobody believes we've had that much snow."
The biggest snowfalls were in January (10.6 inches for the month) and February (9.9 inches), he said. Fortunately, the white stuff didn't stick around long, he added.
The area also has experienced warmer than normal temperatures and an early spring arrival. Today's predicted high of 76 is 27 degrees above average, Howick said. No temperature records have been broken but that could change. Today's record high is 80 degrees.
Howick admits the weather's been "unusual" in the county and across the country but warns winter isn't over yet.
"You know Mother Nature. She can still get back at ya with a curve ball," he said.
Additional online stories for this date
Print edition only stories for this date
• School officials to survey before another levy try
• Board OKs improvement projects
• Renovation plans moving forward
• Better technology brings higher costs
• Man faces aggravated menacing charge
• Stunning loss helped propel Minster to state title
Weather forecast
for Thursday:

Partly cloudy