While companies that handle snow cleanup are reaping the financial benefits of working overtime, the long hours have been taking their toll, too.
Accurate Landscaping and Plowing in Manchester does commercial snow removal, including plowing, loader work, bobcat work and salting services, owner Preston Ezzideen said. They also subcontract out work such as roof raking.
“From a financial standpoint, it’s been a blessing for anyone who works in snow. From a stress and quality of life [standpoint], a lot of our employees have hit their breaking point. You [as an employer] become more of a coach at that point to get them through the next storm,” Ezzideen said.
He said there was a three-week stretch when workers were only getting about three hours of sleep a night. Finding time to service equipment when it started breaking down was difficult too, with so little time between storms.
“I felt, personally, this winter has been more stressful than when I was doing tours in Afghanistan,” said Ezzideen, a former Marine. “Any roofer, any snow removal provider is making money in two months that their business would make in seven to eight months. I said to someone, if I could buy sleep right now, I’d be broke. It was quite the wild ride.”
Concord General Services Director Chip Chesley called the snow a “two-edged sword.” The crews that maintain the City of Concord’s roads were at one point working 30 hours of overtime. It made for a nice paycheck, but the schedule was tough.
“It’s hard for anybody to sustain working that many hours on a regular basis,” Chesley said.
Overtime is limited to responding to a storm, Chesley said, and to the seven or eight times the downtown area is shut down at night for snow removal. There is no overtime for plowing sidewalks and doing general snow removal.
“We’re pressing our budgets. We’re doing everything we can to moderate our budget, and we are hoping spring will arrive soon,” he said.
Jeff Lavigne, co-owner of Giant Landscaping in Manchester, said his company performs full landscaping, maintenance and snow plowing for commercial clients, such as big box stores.
Lavigne said this year has been different from past years, in that there are two types of contracts — seasonal and per storm. In the past the split has been 60/40 respectively, but this year it has been 25/75.
In January, Lavigne said they were “sweating bullets,” wondering if it was going to snow, and then once the snow started it was one big storm after another. “Relentless,” he called it.
“It’ll be a fantastic year. I [just] wish we had the snow over three months, not over six weeks,” Lavigne said.
Trash Can Willy’s Junk Removal Service in Manchester is in its first year of doing snow plowing and snow removal, and while the winter has been challenging, the money is good.
“Overall the snow will be a big impact on our bottom line. We will have definitely made more money because of [all] the snow,” said Steven Heimsath of Trash Can Willy’s. “Obviously with the amount of snow that came down, we were extremely busy. The frequency could have been a little less.”
The extreme cold, coupled with the amount of snow, has made the company’s first year doing snow removal challenging. One plow burned to the ground in a customer’s driveway to kickoff the season, while another had issues with its hydraulics due to the extreme cold. On a third plow, the fuel lines kept freezing because they were continuously compressed against deep snow, Heimsath said. The second half of the season, it was servicing all of its accounts with one plow.
“That was pretty hard to do,” Heimsath said. “We made money, but it was really earned. We earned every dollar we made this winter.”
As seen in the March 5, 2015 issue of the Hippo.