Snowy winter wipes out road budgets in small Minn. towns - KMSP-TV

Snowy winter wipes out road budgets in small Minn. towns

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Small communities across the state are struggling to deal with this winter's demanding conditions, and many local budgets are being pushed to the brink as another blast of blowing snow sweeps in.

"It gets icy," plow operator Troy Schulte acknowledged. "There's no control once you hit a snow drift; no stopping it."

Fox 9 News rode along through the tiny township of Wheatland. The Rice County community has a population of 1,300, and it was battered by blizzard conditions on Wednesday.

"We have to keep it open for ambulance and fire trucks," Schulte said.

The blowing snow sent Schulte back out on the roads for another long shift in the cab of his truck.

"It's tough because the wind does blow so much on these roads," he said. "We're getting on it before it gets bad."

While all public works and road maintenance budgets are being pushed to the limit by this brutal winter season, and smaller governments seem to be hit the hardest.

"We're spending hours and hours removing snow," Lenny Laures, maintenance supervisor for a few townships near Rochester, said.

Laures explained that his communities have blown through their annual $25,000 sand budget, and they're already about $5,000 into next year's fuel allotment.

"We've had other bad winters, but I can't remember all the blowing snow being quite as bad," Laures said.

That blowing snow can turn a single snowfall into three plow runs, and all the labor and fuel is adding up. That's why townships are rallying together to ask for more transportation-related funding from lawmakers in St. Paul.

"Right now, we feel a little short. Our costs have gone up -- gravel has gone up, equipment costs have gone up, labor has gone up -- and, in general, we try to be tight in the township. We don't like to raise the levy too much," Gary Bruggenthies said.

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