Snow patrol

Melissa Dilley

City sets routes for plowing roads

City sets routes for plowing roads

As early as 1 p.m. yesterday, the city of Kent was prepared for the snowfall that canceled university classes after 4 p.m.

Plow trucks were being repaired and filled with salt to deal with the impending weather yesterday morning on the chance that the predictions for inclement weather were accurate.

This was far from the response to last Friday’s squalls that dumped nearly 15 inches on the city in less than 24 hours. Some streets went until Sunday before being touched by a plow.

Amanda DePompei, junior human development and family studies major who lives on Erie Street, walked everywhere over the weekend because she said she couldn’t get her car onto the unplowed road unless she wanted to push it.

DePompei said while she understands the accumulation was more than usual, she hopes the city has a better response plan next time.

“I have an SUV, so I’ll try to get out of my driveway because I have a test, but hopefully Kent will get it plowed this time,” she said.

City service director Eugene Roberts said there are many factors that determine how snowplowing is dealt with and when.

But most importantly, it depends on the street.

Drawing the routes

Each road in the city is assigned a level. There are main roads like St. Rt. 59 and others that are secondary like Lincoln Street, which runs past campus.

Roads that run to main roads and secondary roads are considered tertiary and roads that dead end or have a cul-du-sac are the lowest priority.

This means DePompei’s street was tertiary and cleared long after others.

Those who drove down Main Street on Friday or Saturday might have noticed the roads weren’t snow-free like many others in Portage County. Roberts attributes this to bar-goers who left cars downtown over Thursday night and didn’t get them out in time for the snow blast that began at noon Friday.

“Sometime between 4 a.m. and 5 a.m. we will start getting to the residential streets,” Roberts said. “If you look at a map, it kind of makes sense as to what we plow. When you’re the last street to get plowed, you might be upset, but it wouldn’t do any good if we plowed the street with only one house on it and then they get to the end of the road and they can’t go anywhere.”

Preparing the road

Aside from preparing the plow trucks for service, Roberts’ team’s first plan of action yesterday was to issue a parking ban, which went into effect at 4 p.m.

During typical business hours Monday through Friday, service workers are ready to go with about two trucks and as needed they would add up to five more trucks.

After hours and on weekends, city police on duty are charged with alerting the service workers if the roads are getting slick while on patrol.

Since yesterday’s snowstorm began during operating hours, the drivers could respond quickly to the call.

First, salt trucks dropped a pre-wetting agent, which is laid down before a snowfall to lower the temperature at which water freezes.

Next, the trucks would begin plowing the roads, main ones first, and start dropping salt as ice begins to form.

Roberts said wet, heavy snow like the kind that began falling yesterday morning and Friday is more difficult to plow than light, fluffy snow which takes a less concerted and more continuous effort to move.

How low the temperature is also has an effect on the clearing process. Roberts said the service department uses regular salt when the temperature is above 17 degrees and uses a more robust and expensive Calcium Chloride mixture when the temperature falls below that.

Paying for safety

Roberts said there are 12 different trucks that can be sent out in the case of a large snowstorm. Seven of these are the large plow trucks commonly associated with the department and five others are heavy-duty trucks with plows attached.

Drivers work up to 16-hour days during a heavy snowfall. Roberts said the limit on the amount of time drivers can work hinders the city’s snow-removal plan.

Drivers with a commercial drivers license can work for 16 hours before being required to take an eight-hour break.

“We have 22 people in the central maintenance division. If you take two crews of 10 each, and we’ve got two reserve people for waterline breaks and other problems, we’re right there at mission critical,” Roberts said.

Roberts estimated overtime salaries for his crew this winter to be between $200,000 and $250,000 of the possible $300,000 budget.

Roberts said he can’t be certain how much of the city budget is allotted to snow removal because the service department gets an overall budget and snow is one small part of it.

“Historical data is used to provide budgets and when we have extremely bad winters additional appropriation money is taken out of city’s reserve for additional overtime,” Roberts said.

As of yesterday, the total cost of cleaning up after Friday’s snowstorm wasn’t finalized, but using the theory that clearing 1-inch-deep snow costs $5,000 to plow, Roberts figured the cost to come out to be between $50,000 to $60,000. That estimate includes truck repairs, labor, fuel and salt.

To supplement the cost of clearing roads that can sometimes be unexpected, Kent City Council approved extra funds this fall to ensure intersections are cleared and obstructive snow piles are moved.

Private contractors have been hired to clear the snow that has been piled up by intersections from plows. Roberts said the plan is to get all the snow out before it hardens and trucks have to come in to carry it away.

Garret Ferrara, Ward 1 councilman who voted to pass the extra budget for snow removal, said despite how much the city spends to keep the roads clean, deciding whether to travel on them should be simple.

“Just use common sense,” Ferrara said. “We try to do the best we can and I think we do an excellent job, but at the end of the day, some roads are going to be plowed and others aren’t, so leave half-an-hour earlier for work. It’s not like the city tries to discriminate when clearing roads.”

Contact public affairs reporter Melissa Dilley

at [email protected].