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Beltrami County snowplow operators Paul Mistic, left, and Stan Kimmes refuel after a day of plowing. Lack of snow has helped ease city and county budgets because of fewer overtime hours needed to plow streets and roads. Monte Draper | Bemidji Pioneer

Dry winter eases city, county budgets

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Not only is Beltrami County saving some dollars due to the unseasonably dry winter, but it also has been able to catch up on some brush-clearing.

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Bruce Hasbargen, the county engineer, said the winter, thus far, has prompted savings in overtime due to less winter road care needs. The easier-than-normal winter also has provided opportunities to clear brush and trees from right-of-ways.

"We've been doing other things during the normal hours, and that has been a big benefit," said Hasbargen, noting crews were out mowing in late 2011. "We're getting to some areas that we haven't gotten to in many years."

Last week, the Associated Press reported that a warm, brown winter has benefitted the budgets of state and local governments.

Craig Gray, Bemidji public works director/city engineer, said the city's street maintenance budget is right on track for 2012.

Overtime was needed, he said, to pay crews who worked over the New Year's weekend.

In 2011, the streets department came in under its overtime budget, Gray said, mainly because snowplow drivers worked flexible shift schedules. They might come in to work on a Sunday and then be able to leave early Friday, saving some overtime dollars.

The winter thus far in 2012 has not prompted a lot of holiday or weekend work, Gray noted.

"So far, we're in really good shape," he said. "We're starting out well for 2012."

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