Change in plowing policy unlikely

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, January 10, 2001

The last 10 days of warmer, dryer weather have given city crews a chance to catch up on snow removal throughout the city, said City Engineer Dave Olson.

Wednesday, January 10, 2001

The last 10 days of warmer, dryer weather have given city crews a chance to catch up on snow removal throughout the city, said City Engineer Dave Olson.

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&uot;We think we’ll be completely recovered from December by the end of the week,&uot; said Olson. &uot;The streets are in great shape, even in the residential areas. This weather has been just what we needed.&uot;

But while the streets are clear, and trucks continue to haul old snow to dumping areas, a debate continues in the city about snow removal procedures. The topic came up at Monday’s city council meeting.

Councilor Dave McPherson told the council that he has received a number of calls from residents in the last two weeks about snow removal procedures. He identified two reasons that snow removal has been difficult.

&uot;We received a lot of snow in a short period of time. It’s hard to not only move that snow, but also to find a place to put it,&uot; McPherson said. &uot;The second factor that impedes snow removal is the number of vehicles parked on the streets all over town.&uot;

McPherson said that some callers suggested that the city be more aggressive about towing vehicles obstructing plows. Sparks said the city normally gives vehicle owners at least 24 hours.

Though McPherson and the other councilors voiced support for plow operators and city crews, there was some discussion about alternative plowing procedures.

The most common suggestion is the even/odd plowing system, which prohibits vehicles from parking on the even or odd sides of the streets corresponding with the day of the month.

&uot;Some people prefer the even/odd system of plowing that is provided for in the city code,&uot; McPherson said. He recommended the council consider the system as an alternative during periods of heavy snow.

City Manager Paul Sparks has heard the suggestion before. He maintains that the current plowing procedures are the most effective and efficient.

&uot;We have looked at cost comparisons,&uot; Sparks said. &uot;We just don’t have enough trucks or personnel to use the even/odd system.&uot;

Though the city code does provide an even/odd system for snow emergencies, Sparks said the policy hasn’t been used for over 20 years.

&uot;It creates just as many if not more inconveniences for the residents because of the towing involved,&uot; Sparks said. &uot;Enforcement is a big issue during snow emergencies, and it can get confusing for people who aren’t used to it or didn’t hear the declaration or were out of town.&uot;

The even/odd system also creates inflexibility, Sparks said, because the whole city must be treated in the same fashion. Many people would be forced to wait days for their side of the street to be cleared.

The reality for Albert Lea, said Sparks, is that hauling snow is absolutely necessary, especially in the business district and parking areas. The huge task of hauling snow is a day-long effort that requires the coordination of snow blowers and several tandem trucks that cost city about $6,000 per day.

&uot;Our system is actually faster and it opens the whole city in two days,&uot; Sparks said. &uot;The even/odd system can take up to four days with the size of our crew.&uot;

According to Sparks, the city’s plowing procedures have been identified as exemplary in a recent Best Practices study by the Minnesota Department of Transportation.

&uot;Believe me, we have looked at every alternative. Our system works because it’s well organized, has clear priorities and keeps the plowing and hauling separate,&uot; Sparks said.