Snow on Streets Discussed By City Commission

Jan 4, 2022 4 min read
Snow on Streets Discussed By City Commission

The weekend snowstorm, which coincided with the New Year holiday, left behind a blanket of white for kids to enjoy over their Christmas break. However, it also left some citizens concerned about driving safely on the roads.

Concern was brought to the attention of City staff that streets were not being pre-treated before the storm, as well as not being attended to in a timely manner during the storm.

Before Citizens Forum could begin, Mayor Hodges gave City Manager Schrage an opportunity to address the situation.

"I will say that City Managers office and Public Works staff met," Schrage began, "leading up the Winter, in terms of staffing and our snow removal plan. This is our first snow event of the year, and it kinda tested us in terms of the thresholds of that plan."

James Teutsch, Director of Public Works, took the podium to explain the City's snow removal process, the plan that's in place, and where he believed there could be room for improvement.

"We had an event, this weekend. I noticed a few public comments, and I think it's good to explain what happened," James started out. "Beginning on Thursday afternoon, on December 30, we loaded all twelve of the dump trucks with the salt spreaders and loaded them with salt. The crews went home, and spent a majority of the day on New Year's Eve, at home. Precipitation started that night around midnight, and the crews were called in."

Teutsch went on the say that crews began to salt at 1 am, New Year's Eve. They ran a day shift with fourteen employees, and a night shift with twelve employees. The night crew on New Year's Eve salted all residential streets once, with 300 lbs of salt with magnesium chloride, per lane mile. Collector and arterial roads were salted twice.

The day crew started New Years Day at 8 am, and salted residential streets once more. This would give the streets a pre-treatment and re-treatment. They also did arterial and collector streets again.

Teutsch continued, "Accumulations that I could find were less than two inches. The east side of Salina had one inch, and the south side had 1.8 inches. Traffic also pushed snow together. We remained in contact with the Police Department, before, during, and after the storm so we could speak to dispatch if there were any areas of concern."

According to Teutsch, the current snow plan says the following under snow plowing:

  • After snow accumulation has reached a depth of several inches, crews are directed to begin plowing operations

"Given the results of the storm and our operations, fault me. Fault the plan. But, don't fault the operators because they followed the plan," Teutsch said.

With that being said, Teutsch also brought a solution to the table.

"I do want to at least express some draft language, that I think going forward could help alleviate some of the things that we noticed from the public."

The draft language presented by Teutsch included the following:

  • Ongoing assessment of snow accumulation or windrowing between lanes at intersections or bridges on our arterial and collector streets is critical in determining our deployment of snowplows is initiated
  • The general rule is when snow accumulates or begins windrowing between lanes, between 1 - 1.5 inches on arterial or collector streets, and temperatures are expected to remain below freezing for the next twelve-hour period, the following streets would be plowed...

"So, we would add this language," Teutsch said, "and that would include Ohio, 9th, Belmont, Crawford, and Magnolia. Those were the streets that, when we met with the City Managers office, we felt could probably best benefit from this addition to the plan. A citizen also brought up another street that we'll have to consider, and that is Centennial."

Teutsch went on to explain his thoughts on a new draft of the snow plan.

  • Snow accumulation of greater than 1.5 inches will result in crews plowing all arterial and collector streets
  • Snow accumulations of greater than 2 inches will result in crews plowing arterial, collector, and residential streets (this is currently in the plan, but Teutsch stated that he would like it to stay in any new plan)

"Two inches is typically our cutoff. If the snowfall is less than two inches, we typically do not plow," Teutsch informed the Commission. "So, while we pre-treated the streets, and we re-treated the streets, we did not initiate plowing operations."

Mayor Hodges spoke in regards to Teutsch. "I want to make it clear to you and your staff, my intent on contacting the City Manager was to pass along the concerns that I received. It's not to assess fault. As a matter of fact, we are incredibly grateful to Public Works staff for spending their New Year's Eve and then New Years Day doing the pre-treatment. At the same time, I was doing a lot of spinning on Belmont yesterday. I appreciate the acknowledgment that maybe we can do plowing as well as the treatment."

Before the discussion was over, Mayor Hodges had one more concern.

"It would also be helpful, too, if citizens knew what to expect. Just in terms of if we have X amount of snow, Y is going to happen. Certain expectations might be completely unrealistic given our resources, but if you can set it up so that people know that the minute a quarter of an inch of snow is on the ground, we aren't getting out the snowplows. It would be helpful to simplify the plan so that people know what to expect."

Teutsch agreed. "I didn't mention it, but I will since it was brought up. The Public Works Department currently is missing thirteen employees. We were fortunate that we got several workers from the Sanitation crew, who had already been working on the holiday, to come out and assist us on New Year's Day. We got another one from Engineering. So, we appreciate the extra support that we did get."

City Manager Schrage commended the Public Works Director, as well. "I appreciate Jim and his staff willingness to plan ahead of time and to debrief us and adjust the plan as needed. I do think that this particular situation tested our threshold. When we had the conversation about two inches, it was warm out and we were speculating. The other thing I would tell you is that traffic safety is the primary concern. We weren't receiving reports of stranded vehicles and accidents and traffic safety issues. It was more a matter of convenience and drivability and that type of thing. We'll continue to monitor and adapt."

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