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Potsdam spends more than $80k on ice storm cleanup

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POTSDAM — With dozens of hours and thousands of dollars already spent clearing away the result of the recent ice storm, the end is nearly in sight for both the town and village.

Officials say, however, there is still plenty of work to do.

Town Highway Superintendent John A. Keleher estimates that the cost of man hours and materials like salt and fuel for snow-renoval equipment totaled $80,000 in the first week of cleanup alone, and there are still some areas that need to be cleared.

“We use a lot of extra salt trying to soften the roads up, because we’ve had the grader on it for the last few weeks,” Mr. Keleher said.

His cost estimates also do not include the 12-hour day town employees worked Monday to battle the rain that was swiftly turning to ice as the temperature dropped back below freezing.

The weekend’s thaw proved both blessing and curse for workers. Warm weather softened the ice and made it easier to clear away, but steady rain seeped beneath the existing ice. When temperatures dipped again, the water froze, making an already-thick ice coat even less manageable.

“That rain from yesterday has gone through the snow and settled at the bottom,” said Bruce Henderson, head of the village’s Department of Public Works.

Clearing roads and parking lots after the storm did not take the village significantly longer than normal after a snowfall, Mr. Henderson said, but sidewalks are proving a more difficult challenge.

The village has 38 miles of sidewalks. Workers can clear the sidewalks of a normal snowfall in six or seven hours, Mr. Henderson said, but with the thick ice, progress has slowed to a crawl.

Since the storm, workers have been able to clear only about 2 miles of sidewalk a day.

“That’s our biggest fight right now,” he said.

Mr. Henderson said he could not yet put a price tag on the village’s storm cleanup efforts, but he said workers have spent 60 hours cleaning sidewalks in the last week alone. This will cost the village about $1,500 before benefits, overtime or equipment costs are taken into account.

Both the town and the village expect to finish cleanup efforts by this weekend, when temperatures are expected to rise again.

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