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For some, no snow equals no dough

Students probably think they are the ones who got a raw deal this winter when they were robbed of their snow days by an unusually low amount of snowfall.

George Hall, COO and Master Mechanic with Rick's Gradall Rental, Inc.

But for contractors who count on snow for work, a mild winter is more serious than missing out on free days to sled and watch “The Price Is Right.”

Baltimore had its third lowest amount of snowfall on record this winter, with only 1.8 inches, making it the least amount of snow since 1973, when the total was 1.2 inches. As a result, companies that provide snow removal and ice treatment services made only a small fraction of what they usually earn.

“This is the only time since I started doing this in ’96 that we haven’t pushed any snow,” said Rob Rogers, who owns Ellicott City-based Robs Jobs LLC, which offers a variety of home improvement and landscaping services.

Rogers said his company usually brings in about $20,000 for snow removal and ice treatment services. This year Rogers said it was only around $3,000, which came entirely from salt treatment, a far cry from the $75,000 Rogers said he made during the blizzard two years ago.

Rogers said his company could have been in much worse shape, had it not received a lucrative contract that happened to coincide with the almost snowless winter.

“If we hadn’t gotten that contract, I’d be dipping into savings to make payroll,” Rogers said.

Like Robs Jobs, ProTurf Landscape and Lawn Care, based in Halethorpe, was able to make a little money on salting, but still only garnered about 2½ percent of its typical earnings.

Paul Landis, who owns ProTurf, said his company usually makes about $40,000 on winter services. This winter, he said, he earned around $1,000.

Landis said that snow and ice services are a common way for ProTurf and other landscaping companies to make money during the winter, since there isn’t a lot of landscaping work. This year’s slow season has inspired Landis to get his Class A license, so he can have a side job as a truck driver during the winter to avoid having little to no income if there isn’t snow.

“The truck driving should help to fill some of the gaps,” Landis said.

Landis said that he hopes to gets enough work in the spring to make up for some of this winter’s losses.

Robs Jobs and ProTurf actually did well compared to Baltimore-based company Rick’s Gradall Rental Inc., which didn’t earn any money for winter services this year.

George Hall, who is one of the chief operating officers for Rick’s Gradall Rental, said his company usually makes around $15,000-$20,000 for snow removal and ice treatment. Hall said his company now has an entire truckload of unused salt that it will be forced to store for next year since it is already paid for.

“Our bread and butter is during the summer months doing excavation, so we will just have to hit that harder to try and make up for the losses,” Hall said.

Hall also said the company had to cut back on marketing and put off non-essential projects, like repainting machinery, to account for the lost business.

Hall said in his 10 years doing business in the area he has never experienced a winter like this.

“We have never had zero [work], we’ve always done something.”