As snow continues to pile up, so do overtime budgets for plow drivers

In Grand Forks County, more than 100 roads that are normally plowed are no longer being plowed.

A plow cleans a city street in Grand Forks.
Grand Forks Herald / File

GRAND FORKS — Plow drivers across the region have been working around the clock the past few weeks as Old Man Winter remains grumpy and just won't go away.

The battle with Mother Nature has really plowed into snow removal budgets.

"Our employees are starting to get ragged, 10, 12 hours a day," said Cass County engineer Jason Benson.

In Grand Forks County, the feeling is the same.

"We've got some 35, 40-year veteran guys that would say this is second only to the 96-97 winter," said Grand Forks County engineer Nick West.


While snow totals for the winter across the Valley are only slightly above average they've had plenty of work to do, especially this month.

"Just the amount of wind, the number of times you drive down a road and plow it and 20 minutes later it doesn't look like you plowed it," said Benson.

Overtime budgets are quickly snowballing.

In Cass County, it's estimated they have already eaten up half of the highway department's overtime budget for the year.

In the city of Grand Forks, two-thirds of the overtime budget has been spent.

In Grand Forks County the county engineer said they've been so busy he hasn't looked at the numbers in weeks. But he pointed out that during last winter (which was quieter) they had exceeded their annual overtime budget by March.

With the overtime budget piling up as fast as the snow, they are no longer plowing more than 100 rural roads.

"That we normally would keep open, we just make sure that each resident, each farmer location out there has a way out. It may not be the best way out or most convenient way out," said West.


All three highway leaders are quick to point out overtime is typically very high during the winter and flood seasons and that the amount of overtime comes way down during the summer.

The biggest dilemma is trying to forecast the snowfall for November and December as the budget cycle wraps up.

"You have to cut other places to make sure we can plow snow. That's gotta be the number one priority," said West.

Attempts to obtain the amount of overtime spent in Fargo and the North Dakota Department of Transportation were not successful.

Matt Henson is an Emmy award-winning reporter/photographer/editor for WDAY. Prior to joining WDAY in 2019, Matt was the main anchor at WDAZ in Grand Forks for four years. He was born and raised in the suburbs of Philadelphia and attended college at Lyndon State College in northern Vermont, where he was recognized twice nationally, including first place, by the National Academy for Arts and Science for television production. Matt enjoys being a voice for the little guy. He focuses on crimes and courts and investigative stories. Just as often, he shares tear-jerking stories and stories of accomplishment. Matt enjoys traveling to small towns across North Dakota and Minnesota to share their stories. He can be reached at and at 610-639-9215. When he's not at work (rare) Matt resides in Moorhead and enjoys spending time with his daughter, golfing and attending Bison and Sioux games.
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