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Anello says Council cuts will impact snow removal

It could take longer to clear all the city's streets of snow next year if the City Council chooses not to restore some parts of the proposed 2007 operating budget on Tuesday, according to Mayor Vince Anello.

"What we have to pray for is the same kind of winter we had last year," the mayor said. "Every single number we placed in the budget was based on historical figures."

Anello's proposed $86.1 million city budget for 2007 included a $45,000 overtime line for snow removal. The City Council cut that line to $15,000 as part of about $800,000 in cuts made to the spending plan in an attempt to lower a proposed property tax hike of 1 percent for homeowners and 2.6 percent for commercial properties.

The mayor has since restored that overtime line as part of 29 vetoes, and on Tuesday the Council will decide to accept or override those vetoes before adopting a final 2007 operating budget.

Anello told the Council in a memorandum recently that the city's current plan to remove snow from all city streets in 24 hours would take 32 hours if they choose to keep the reductions.

The city spent $87,843 on its Streets Department overtime in 2005, which included snow removal, street construction and street cleaning, according to City Controller Maria Brown. This year, the budget divides those overtime lines into three categories to show how much each division would use. The amount spent on snow removal so far this year was not available late last week.

While the mayor predicts snow removal is just one example of city services that would suffer if the Council's cuts stay, some lawmakers say they aren't buying it.

"All these negative things he says he can't do, he can do," said Councilman Lewis Rotella. "I don't believe him."

Rotella, as well as Councilmen Robert Anderson and Sam Fruscione said they plan to vote to override all of Anello's vetoes, and are calling the warning of longer snow removal a scare tactic.

"If it's going to take an extra eight hours I don't think they're doing a good job managing downtown," Fruscione said.

The Council mostly voted unanimously to make the cuts to overtime and other small items in the Streets Department so it appears unlikely Anello will get the lines restored.

Public Works Manager John Soro says the city would not be ready to clear a large storm even if the overtime is restored because it doesn't have the 29 vehicles that the city snow removal plan -- which has been in place for at least 10 years -- calls for.

He said the city will get three new large trucks in January but currently has 15 vehicles at the most -- one is an '82 -- to use for plowing. He said the new plow trucks the city bought through casino funding last year are a help, but every time a truck is added to the city's fleet it simply replaces one that's too outdated to be reliable.

"They hit my fuel lines and also my overtime lines for snowplowing and also some parts lines for repairing equipment," Soro said of the Council cuts. "That's all a problem because of the aging fleet. If we don't have money for parts, we'll have a problem."

If the Council approves a budget with all the cuts intact, Anello said he'll release a report on the impacts to city services sometime in March.


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