The City of Kent prepares for sub-zero temperatures

Brooke Bower

A Winter Storm Warning issued by the National Weather Service is expected to bring six to 10 inches of snow and winds around 15 mph to Kent and northeast Ohio. Despite extreme winter weather, city emergency responders and Portage Area Regional Transportation Authority are expected to keep operations running smoothly during inclement weather.

“All of the officers have the same mentality when it comes to acclimate weather,” said  James Prusha, administrative lieutenant for the Kent Police Department. “It is better to arrive somewhere [safe] than to crash along the way.”

Prusha also said the Kent City Police Department tries its best to keep a normalcy despite cold and acclimate weather conditions. He said the biggest effect the weather has is on response times. All officers are directed to drive for the conditions and respond to more car accident calls during winter weather.

“It takes a while for us to complete the accident reports, and they’re running ragged trying to deal with a lot of crashes,” Prusha said. “It will affect how long it takes to get to other calls.”

During the snow and cold, officers will leave vehicles running to ensure a clean vehicle for quicker response times. Sometimes the officers leave equipment running, and this can kill the car batteries as quickly as the cold weather, city mechanic Jerome Mullins said.

Mullins is the mechanic for all city of Kent owned vehicles, and he said he takes extra precautions in his shop to make sure he is prepared for the upkeep of city vehicles.

“The main thing the cold affects is the batteries,” Mullins said. “We make sure they have new batteries or ones that are close to new and fully charged. If a vehicle doesn’t start, you don’t get a response.”

Mullins said each police car takes two batteries, one to run the vehicle and another to run the computers and additional equipment in the car. Fire trucks and ambulances take different batteries that are more expensive to upkeep, but he said he makes sure he has plenty of extras of each type on hand during the winter months.

Additionally, he checks that all are properly maintained through routine check ups. To winterize emergency vehicles, he said he equips each with snow tires and adds a winter coolant he mixes up in his shop.

“It’s like any other time of the year, even the summer, you just want to make sure everything is working and maintained,” Mullins said.    

Joseph Yensel, PARTA’s manager of operations and information technology, said they keep buses prepped year round for any type of weather conditions.

To help keep the buses running in the cold, they are parking as many as they can indoors, he said. The full-sized buses take top priority because of a brake system that can freeze if water gets in them.

Frank Hairston, PARTA marketing and EEO director, added that the smaller buses are hooked to cord outside that keep the motors running. Block heaters keep the oil warmer than if the bus was off. He said this helps in getting the bus to start in the cold.  

PARTA has never had to shut down services and received positive feedback during the Jan. 6 and 7 below-zero temperatures for keeping route times as normal as possible, Hairston said.

Though, Yensel said sometimes buses do get delayed, but road supervisors go out to look for buses running behind and will call additional resources to pick up patrons if a route is too far off schedule.

“There may be times where we’re running slow, but be patient,” Hairston said. “We make sure our drivers know to be safe when there is acclimate weather.”

Yensel said overall, the buses handle really well in the winter, and if the bus undergoes the proper maintenance year round, it won’t have any problems during inclement weather. Additionally, he said the drivers are trained year round for all weather conditions and told to keep it slow during snowy conditions.

“If we take you to work, we want to bring you home,” Yensel said. 

Contact Brooke bower at [email protected].