Nebraska Communities Struggle With Snow Removal Costs

Jan. 27, 2023, 5 p.m. ·

Snow plow pushes snow to a corner
Massive snowfall is stretching some towns tight budgets (Screenshot LNKTV City)

Communities in western Nebraska have seen multiple feet of snow already this winter. With no signs of a break anytime soon, counties and cities are digging deep into their snow removal budgets. Ogallala city manager Kevin Wilkins said the city’s snow removal budget was used up following a New Years snow storm.

“We will be making budgetary adjustments to accommodate our expenses. We budgeted for $40,000 in emergency snow removal, and we’ve used $25,000 of Ice Slicer,” Wilkins said.

Wilkins said the snow removal budget’s are just estimates, and are often adjusted over the winter. Chris Jacobsen, the highway superintendent for Custer County, said some communities may need to make sacrifices later in the year.

“Most departments have a reserve in their budget that if they exceed with snow removal they have to look at those items and say we have to push off buying a new piece of equipment,” Jacobsen said.

These sacrifices could include not buying new equipment to delaying cement work and road repairs in the spring and summer.

Ross Grant is the public works director in Alliance. He said that their strategy of windrowing snow is more convenient for residents in the winter, but is ultimately more expensive and time consuming.

“Our budget is not endless. If it continues, we will certainly see hardship in where we get those funds from,” Grant said.

On top of simply removing the snow, the numerous storms have put stress on snow removal equipment. Ogallala's Wilkins said this is especially true after a year of limited snow removal due to drought.

“We’ve lost a couple of hydraulics on a plow, we’ve got some issues with radiators that are leaking. We’re limping them along, but there are repairs that need to be made when we get the chance,” Wilkins said.

Wilkins also said Ogallala brought in private contractors to help with limited manpower.

“There is a fiscal impact to bring in those contractors, but we have to do what we have to do. We’ve also had a lot of good citizens in Ogallala who have gone out with their equipment and help to open up traffic,” Wilkins said.

While frustrations can arise when fighting the elements, Grant said communication between residents and city leadership is key.