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New county snow clearing policy tested with recent snow, ice storms

New county snow clearing policy tested with recent snow, ice storms

December 20th, 2010 in News

Don Norfleet/FULTON SUN photo: The cinder shed at the Callaway County Road and Bridge Department has plenty of cinders remaining after county crews battled a snow storm last Sunday and an ice storm last Wednesday night.

The new Callaway County snow and ice removal policy received its first tests a few days after it was launched.

Last Sunday high winds caused extensive drifting on county roads and on Wednesday night an ice storm struck Callaway County.

Both of those events qualified as exceptions to the new policy of not clearing light snow until after a snowfall has stopped and trying to avoid working at night or on weekends.

Paul Winkelmann, Callaway County highway administrator, said although the new policy limits snow clearing activity at night and on weekends, the policy also is flexible enough to deal with unusual situations such as those that occurred during the last week.

Two unusual snow and ice situations occurred during the last week.

"Whenever ice develops it becomes very dangerous and we will be out even at night. On Wednesday night we started to get freezing ice so we called out our crews to spread cinders. They were out treating about 85 miles of county blacktop roads. Gravel roads were not as slick," Winkelmann said.

County work crews were working from 8 p.m. Wednesday to 3:30 a.m. Thursday. They then resumed action on Thursday during the day covering gravel roads, the hills and curves and also reapplying cinders on blacktop roads as needed.

Last Sunday Winkelmann said the unusually cold weather combined with high winds caused extensive snow drifting in the county. For this reason, county snow clearance crews were activated at 7 a.m. on Sunday to work mainly blacktop areas where extensive drifting had occurred.

"The frustration with high wind and drifting is that we can knock a drift down and a few minutes later the drift is back," Winkemann said.

Winkelmann said he wanted to establish a general snow removal and ice control policy so people will be aware of what to expect under normal winter storm conditions.

The new policy under normal conditions limits snow removal to daylight hours and not on weekends. The crews also normally won't start clearing snow until after it stops snowing.

"We are not staffed like the state of Missouri to provide 24-hour service. In the past, some of the expectations of the public were that we should be out there all of the time. We wanted to adopt a policy and share it with the public so they would know when to expect us out there plowing snow," Winkelmann said.

In drafting a snow removal policy, Winkelmann checked with several other counties to learn their policies.

Winkelmann said tight budgets in recent years have taken a toll on his road crew staff. "Three or four years ago we had four or five employees retire who were not replaced," he said.

He said the budget this year is basically the same as last year.

The newly established policy also is designed to reduce costs as much as possible.

The price of salt used on roads is now about $60 a ton. "We can buy a ton of asphalt for about that same amount. That is something that could be used to repair the roads," Winkelmann said.

He said the cinders and salt on hand normally will be enough to last this winter. "But if we are forced to use all of the cinders in the shed, then I am going to have to buy about 400 to 500 tons of salt again to mix with the cinders," Winkelmann said.

The Callaway County Road and Bridge Department has 29 employees. The department has 12 trucks and 10 motorgrader operators. Some staff members need to remain at the department to operate equipment to load trucks with salt and cinders along with mechanics to repair equipment.

If the entire staff and all equipment is pressed into service at once, Winkelmann said his staff can clear a 6-inch accumulation of snow throughout the county in from 12 to 14 hours. "That's with every piece of equipment in use and nothing broken down.