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City crews work ’round the clock

By Staff | Jan 7, 2011

The City of Rugby asks residents to be patient as the crews are working overtime to get all the streets clear in a timely manner, after a winter season that has dropped 27 inches of snow already. (KZZJ Radio is official weather recorder)

The crew is putting in long hours, night and day. In comparison to 2008 and 2009, Rugby has increased overtime this winter by 285% more than in 2009 and 30% more than in 2008 and the winter isn’t over yet. In November and December of 2010 overtime hours totaled 218.50 for the city crew. Last winter, the total was 57.75 hours of recorded overtime.

The City has a snow removal policy which must be adhered to. The crews use the quickest and most efficient methods of snow removal with the least amount of inconvenience. Snow removal will not start until after the main snowfall or storm, unless an emergency arises. After large snowfalls, the snowplow will make one pass down the middle of the street to allow for traffic, so that all streets will have at least one lane of traffic open within 12 hours.

“Emergency snow routes are the first cleared,” said Dave Engeland, city street supervisor. “These are well-marked by signs.”

Emergency routes are first priorities, followed by hospitals, schools, businesses, and residences. This allows ambulances, fire trucks, law enforcement, etc. to move first.

Many factors figure into the snow removal process: amount of snow, wind conditions, quality and quantity of snow, parked cars on streets, and access to businesses.

The city crew follows the policy, removing snow from the following emergency routes first: Hwy 3, Main Avenue, 3rd Ave. SE, 1 St. NW/NE, and 10th St. SW/SE. Secondary snow emergency routes: 4th St. SW, from Hwy 3 to 9th Ave. SE, 3rd St. SW, from Hwy 3 to 9th Ave SE, Country Road from Hwy 2 to 3rd St. SE, and Frontage roads along Highways 2 & 3.

City employees are working overtime hours to try and keep up with the work, but in the last two weeks, with storms and heavier snowfalls, it has been a challenge.

“The dedicated employees I have will work round the clock when needed,” said Engeland.

Currently, the city has six people who work with snow removal: Engeland, Dan Volk, Troy Munyer, Brad Radomski along with Rick Larson and Greg Brossart at the water plant. For equipment the city has two motor graders equipped with snow gates, one reversible truck-mounted side delivery plow, one front end loader, one truck- mounted sander, and one backhoe with a loader.

The snow gates are used to limit the amount of snow discharge in driveways and around mailboxes. The snow gates are only effective for low to moderate snow accumulations. Heavy snow accumulations will go over the top of the snow gate. Wet snow will put too much pressure on the snow gate and will eventually break it.

Putting sand on the roads is another useful weapon in the street work. When it works, it is great.

“Sand doesn’t work if the temperatures outside are 20 degrees or below,” said Karla Harmel, city auditor. “The sand doesn’t want to stick.”

The county crew faces the same challenges. They have to remove snow from the farm to market roads first, then secondary roads. One storm they may start at one end of the county and the next storm they will start at another end of the county. They like to help their neighbors out but they have priorities as to how they clear the roads. They can’t just jump around because a resident sees them and would like theirs done next.

“If an emergency comes up, we’ll be happy to open a secondary road first,” said the county commission.

“The blade operators are doing a good job,” said Joe Bohl, chairman, Pierce County Commissioners. “They are willing to put in extra hours even working on New Year’s Day.”

The community can be a great help in the snow removal process. Some residents have snowblowers. It would be helpful to the process, when possible, if residents would blow the snow from their sidewalks and driveways onto their own property rather than the street. The crew does not have time, nor does the city have the money to have the crew return to streets they have already cleared, to clear snow again.

Another way the community can help is whenever there is a snowstorm or a heavy snowfall, remove vehicles from the streets in preparation for snow removal.

“We strive to do our best,” said Terry Wentz, councilman. “I try to address complaints as they come, but people have to be aware that the crews are doing the best they can under the circumstances.”

The snow is usually hauled to city-owned property located west of McGuire’s. So far, the city hasn’t run out of room.

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