- Associated Press - Monday, February 9, 2015

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) - A budget-busting series of winter blasts has left some officials around the state wishing for spring.

The third major storm in less than two weeks brought as much as a foot of snow to some areas of Rhode Island Monday. By the end of the cleanup, the state Department of Transportation will have used up its $14 million budget for snow removal for the year, and nearly the entire salt stockpile.

In Pawtucket, Mayor Donald Grebien told city employees to hold off on hiring new personnel and on buying any non-essential items until further notice while the city pays its snow removal bills.

The city had $700,000 available for the year but the recent storms will cost Pawtucket a total of $1.3 million to $1.4 million, unless the federal government pays some of the expenses from the late-January blizzard that brought two feet of snow to some parts of the state, Grebien added.

During the blizzard, it cost about $600,000 just to rent equipment to carry snow off to two parks at each end of the city, he said.

“We have to deal with what is not a controllable expense,” Grebien said. “I wish I could control Mother Nature.”

DOT Director Michael Lewis budgeted $14 million for winter storms based on a five-year average. He said he will first try to cover any additional costs this winter within the department’s overall budget, but could have to seek additional funds if there are more major storms.

Lewis said the state is running low on salt, but there’s enough for this storm and for emergencies. The department’s facilities hold 30,000 to 40,000 tons of salt. That’s usually the equivalent of about three good-sized storms.

Ships carrying tons of salt are headed to Rhode Island and should arrive this week, Lewis added.

The National Weather Service reported Monday that Providence received 33 inches of snow in the last three weeks, and 37.5 inches since Dec. 1. The normal amount from Dec. 1 to early February is 20.2 inches, according to the weather service.

Recent snowfall totals in other parts of the state are approaching four feet, Lewis said.

“Hopefully spring will come soon,” he said.

Providence Mayor Jorge Elorza told WPRO-AM that the city budgeted $1.6 million for the winter and is “right on budget,” having spent two-thirds of that total so far.

Gov. Gina Raimondo coordinated with state officials and National Grid to respond to Monday’s storm and prepare for more winter weather, her spokeswoman said.

Many municipalities canceled school Monday and banned parking. Some schools now have to make up more than a week’s worth of classes.

The Rhode Island state court system suspended its calendars four times in the past two weeks, including Monday. At the busiest court, the Traffic Tribunal, 343 cases on Monday’s docket have to be rescheduled, a court spokesman said.

More snow is in the forecast for later this week. Grebien said he’s hoping and praying the meteorologists are wrong.

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