Snow removal in Kent a wintry mess for workers

During winter storms, the city of Kent designates certain streets as a higher priority than other roads.

“Hills and bridges are our first priority,” said Gerald Shanley, Kent city arborist. “We see the most accidents at Summit hill where the four streets intersect next to the university.”

Following hills and bridges, he said, state Routes 43, 261 and 59 are plowed and treated. When it’s a school day, roads next to schools are given high priority as well.

On a typical winter day, it takes snowplows about three to four hours to plow the entire city of Kent, Shanley said. Six snowplows are typically used, but up to 10 can be dispatched if snowfall is severe.

Once roads are plowed, the process of salting begins. Snowplow driver Carl McCollum said the streets are treated with brine, a mixture of salt and water. He said salt stops being effective below 20 degrees Fahrenheit. When it gets that cold, calcium is mixed with water rather than salt.

City Manager Dave Ruller said truck operators work diligently at providing clear roadways for all streets during snowstorms.

“In the early stages of snow clearing, the plow truck operator’s goal is to make sure we have passable travel lanes,” Ruller said.

“That can mean driving on hard, packed snow until the temperatures warm up and the salt is able to be effective.”

So far, the city has spent over $100,000 on snow and ice removal this winter, Shanley said, and about 1,300 tons of salt have been applied to the streets of Kent. Kent purchases its salt through Morton Salt Company.

“Each ton costs $43.20,” Shanley said. “It may not sound like a lot, but when you think about using over a thousand tons, it starts to add up.”

Salt is not always dispersed on the roads in the event of a snowfall. Shanley said if snow continues to fall at a fast rate, salting the roads is ineffective. The plows will only clear snow out of the roadway and lay the salt down when the snowfall calms down.

Removing snow from sidewalks can also prove to be a headache for citizens. Ruller said the city is not responsible for the removal of snow from any sidewalk; rather, it is the responsibility of each individual property owner.

Ruller said that it’s not illegal for a property owner to decide not to clear the snow on his or her sidewalk. However, an owner can be cited and even fined if he or she improperly removes snow from the sidewalk.

Improperly removing snow includes plowing snow into the street, onto another owner’s sidewalk or in any other way where it could be a problem for anyone walking.

The state of Ohio has three levels of snow emergencies: alert, advisory and emergency.

When a snow alert is issued, people are advised to drive carefully because the roadways are slick. During a snow advisory, drivers should only go out if it is absolutely necessary. Those with jobs should contact their employer to see if they should report to work.

The highest level, a snow emergency, is reserved for the worst snow situations. All roadways are closed and anyone driving on them could be subject to arrest.

Shanley said in the 21 years he has worked for the city, he couldn’t recall a Level 3 emergency ever being issued.

Both McCollum and Shanley said parking cars on the street causes an issue when it comes to plowing and treating the roads.

McCollum said neighborhood streets are his least favorite to plow.

“Neighborhoods are kind of a pain,” McCollum said. “People put rocks down and decorations (in their front lawns). If you hit one of those, it isn’t pleasant. It will wake you up and jar your teeth.”

McCollum said that almost every worker has taken out a mailbox with a plow at least once.

McCollum wants every citizen to be aware of one thing when it comes to parking on the streets of Kent.

“Please don’t park on the street when we’ve got two or more inches of snow,” he said. “It’s just common sense.”

Shanley said that no matter how hard the snowplow drivers work, people will never be completely satisfied.

“If you plow the roads, then you take out parking spots, and no one can park anywhere,” he said. “Cities are simply not built for snow removal.”

Contact Rod Benton and Joseph Zucker at [email protected] and [email protected].