Schenectady County

Saratoga County’s diesel fuel a budget drain

The county Public Works Department’s diesel fuel costs this year are running about 50 percent more t

The county Public Works Department’s diesel fuel costs this year are running about 50 percent more than budgeted, thanks to higher fuel prices.

On Tuesday, the county Board of Supervisors meeting in Ballston Spa moved $210,000 from the department’s personnel budget to the fuel budget to cover the higher fuel bills not anticipated a year ago.

“We’ve known since April there would be a problem with diesel fuel,” county Public Works Commissioner Joseph C. Ritchey said. “Our estimates were based on last year’s costs.”

Diesel fuel for the county has averaged $3.08 per gallon this year, compared with $2.34 last year, pushing the running total well over the $485,000 budgeted for the year.

The county pays a lower price than the general public because it is exempt from paying fuel taxes. The diesel fuels the big trucks used by the county for winter plowing and summer road construction.

Ritchey said the money to cover the additional cost is available within the public works budget because 16 laborer positions were left vacant late last year after employees retired.

In a presentation to the county Public Works Committee last week, Ritchey cautioned that not filling those vacancies may make getting through the winter plowing season difficult. “So we can get through the winter, we’re going to be short of drivers,” he said. “I’ll be talking to the county administrator for those purposes.”

Also Tuesday, supervisors approved a $203,930 contract with McFarland-Johnson to design improvements at the Saratoga County Airport in Milton. The Binghamton engineering firm, which has an office in Saratoga Springs, will be designing a new taxiway lighting system, precision approach path indicator lights, and a reconstruction of the aircraft parking apron.

The design work is being funded primarily with a Federal Aviation Administration grant, so the county’s out-of-pocket cost is expected to be only about $5,000.

Actual construction of the improvements at the county-owned general aviation airport will be contingent on obtaining additional money from the FAA.

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