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Mild Winter Good For Snow Budgets And Homeless Outreach

BOSTON — Another miss from Mother Nature means road superintendents around Massachusetts are breathing a sigh of budget-crunching relief.

As a winter storm predicted to drop several inches of snow on parts of the state bypassed Southern New England, the Massachusetts Department of Transportation reported it still has $20 million left in its $48 million snow removal budget.

Towns and cities also find themselves with piles of money left for snow clean-up. But the executive director of the Massachusetts Municipal Association, Geoff Beckwith, says unused storm funds won’t necessarily go toward other budget items.

“This year is a real relief.”
– Geoff Beckwith

“This year is a real relief,” Beckwith says. “But what it really means is there won’t be deficits that are carried forward into the next year’s budget. It’s not as though there will be major surpluses all over, because of course we’re still paying the bills from last year as well.”

Last winter, heavy snowfall wiped out many snow budgets by early February.

Also getting a break from typical winter conditions are the more than 200 people who sleep on the streets of Boston every night, according to advocates from Pine Street Inn.

“Our vans are out there, and our outreach workers are out there every night, regardless,” says Barbara Trevisan, communications director for the shelter. “But it probably makes it a little easier on them as well, because again, the concern is not as much of people sort of freezing.”

The outreach teams hit the streets earlier than normal on Saturday evening to encourage people to go to the shelter because of the colder temperatures, and if they didn’t, to give them extra blankets.

Meanwhile, private snow plow operators have a much different reaction to the mild winter than those in charge of government budgets.

George Varelas, owner of Buffer Brothers in Boston, normally makes a living plowing snow until his other business picks up in the spring: power washing boats and homes.

“If I knew it was gonna be like this, I never even would have gotten my plow. I just would have kept working throughout the year, you know?” Varelas says. “That’s why they call it blood money, you know what I mean? You wait for it. And sometimes it comes, sometimes it doesn’t.”

Varelas says when it has rained or snowed, most nights haven’t even gotten cold enough for him to bother salting parking lots and sidewalks at the properties he services.

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