I don’t write too many columns about local issues because most of the time I don’t really care, but the city’s snowplowing issue was just too good to pass up…
We all witnessed the issue with snow removal in New York City a couple of weeks ago. It was terrible and the Mayor said they would do better.
A few thousand of miles away, I scooped about 11 inches of snow from my sidewalks (it’s the rule that I clear my sidewalks, but the city does not have to plow my street) and I also removed the snow in the alley behind my garage – never once seeing a snowplow anywhere near my street. I helped three or four people who were stuck get their vehicles going just on my city street.
A little History:
Many years ago I happened to work for a city street department. I was trained to operate a dump truck with a snow plow, a motor grader with a “V” plow on it and a snow wing. I also was trained to operate a loader. When the snow started falling, it looked like dollar bills falling to me as I knew I would probably get some overtime – and I normally did – and most of taxpayers were usually happy with the results.
As soon as there were three or four inches of snow on the ground, the Emergency Snow Ordinance went into effect by the city with the information sent to all local media outlets for publication and dissemination. It also meant that half of our crew worked days and half of our crew worked nights – and that was the schedule until the snow was plowed from all roads and even in some alleys. When the Snow Ordinance went into effect that meant we would be plowing all streets and it was a warning to move your vehicles off the city streets because the snowplows were coming!
Staffing was never a problem. Several times we brought “all hands on deck” and had several people who worked in different sections of the city government and whose normal jobs were not plowing snow trained on how to operate sand trucks and snowplows to be ready for the big one.
We divided the city into six areas with each of us was responsible for that area – ensuring the streets to the hospitals, schools and law enforcement buildings were cleared first. When the snow stopped falling, it was picked up and hauled away from the downtown area.
Then we went home and took a long winter’s nap…on standby.
Recently in Great Falls, Montana, there have been some concerns about most of the secondary streets not being plowed. City officials cite the high cost of this removal and some cars being buried or driveways blocked as reasons for not plowing the secondary streets. They also don’t like angry callers. They probably like their weekends and evenings off, too.
It is also apparent from the media coverage of the snow removal that the City of Great Falls is not adequately prepared with enough manpower and snow removal equipment. Nor do they have the budget to handle a major snowfall. That is a problem with whoever oversees this section of the city government – and it’s one that needs to be immediately corrected by the City Manager and the Commissioners. This is Great Falls, Montana, folks: It snows here. Please don’t tell me you need to raise my taxes to do it either; that’s a non-starter.
After the 11 inches of snow laid on our streets for a few days and was packed down and rutted out by those of us who have to get out, the temperatures went up and the snow melted some. There were no snowplows to be seen in my area pushing the slush to the side and helping with the melting process. Then the temperature dropped and all the secondary streets became ice rinks – causing more accidents, more responses by police, fire, and emergency personnel – and costing the city money for these response teams. It’s a wonder our automobile insurance rates don’t rise with all the chances for an accident in the City. It’s also a dangerous situation around schools – and a couple schools I have traveled by have not had their adjacent streets plowed. With all the anger and media attention over this, it probably does not help with attracting new businesses either.
We all pay our fair share of taxes – I probably pay just as much as some people who are fortunate enough to live on what the City of Great Falls calls a primary street – so I should see a snowplow once in a while – we all should see a snowplow once in a while. We deserve streets that are plowed, not ones that would be better used for ice rinks or a poorly maintained bobsled course.
Great Falls city officials – you can do a lot better.