We thought we might get through this winter without any major snow/ice events, but instead an entire winter's worth all hit this week! 87% of city employees work in Public Safety or Public Works, so the great majority of our workforce is involved in winter weather response - from Public Safety Officers controlling traffic at accident scenes to Street Maintenance Workers standing ankle deep in ice water shoveling open sewer grates by hand. And it's not just city employees working hard to keep our community running. BMU employees were out in the middle of the night during freezing rain making repairs to downed power lines. I even saw neighbors out in the street shoveling open storm sewer grates to let water drain off the streets.
During big snow events we get a lot of questions and comments about snow removal operations, so here are a few things to know:
- The City of Sikeston has four dump trucks with salt spreaders and snow plow attachments.
- This year we added a plow to a front end loader, so we have one more piece of equipment on the streets this year that we didn't have last year.
- Snow has to go somewhere, which means that when we plow, it will create windrows in front of driveways. When it's possible to plow the snow to the other side of the street we do it, but many times it's just not possible.
- We get a lot of requests to plow open the windrows at the ends of driveways to residences and businesses, and we have to politely decline those requests. If we took the time to do that for the thousands of driveways we plow past, we would never be able to get the streets done. We also can't simply lift the blade and not plow in front of driveways, for the same reason.
- Our street crews work 12 hour shifts, 24 hours/day, until the streets are adequately clear or until they no longer can do it under the law (due to driving hour restrictions for CDL license holders).
- Sometimes it takes a while to get to the residential streets, because there is no sense plowing residential streets if the main streets aren't passable. Oftentimes the main streets need multiple passes to keep them clear, especially early during a storm when snow is still falling or blowing.
- Our dump trucks are all 20-25 years old with significant maintenance issues, and it's not always easy to get parts for them. This is something our new Public Works Director identified as a problem last winter and has taken steps to address. Over the summer we put in orders for three brand new dump trucks, which are under construction and should be here soon. We would have loved to have them already, but unfortunately cities all over the country are in the same boat and there is some backlog in production.