Council discusses snow removal improvements
Nearly a month after the last major snowstorm, snow removal continued to draw considerable attention at last week’s Truckee Town Council meeting.
Councilmembers listened to several residents from Tahoe Donner and Glenshire unhappy with the town’s snow removal performance during the December and January storms.
Town Manager Steve Wright said the agenda item did not require action, but was brought before the council so it could hear snow removal improvement suggestions and direct the Snow Removal Committee.
Town Public Works Director Tom Covey said public works staff identified some pertinent questions raised by residents during the Feb. 11 Snow Removal Committee meeting.
“We brought forth some of the questions we have got over the snowplow hot line and from letters we have received,” Covey said. “We asked folks to give us more direction on what they want.”
The first in a list of positive suggestions Covey said merited council consideration was cross-training town employees in operating several pieces of equipment.
“This seems like a very sound suggestion, however, it takes a full season to train an employee before they become proficient,” Covey said, adding personnel from the Building, Engineering and Animal Control departments have been trained to help during severe storms.
Sending a shift supervisor to check areas in Truckee reporting unplowed roads also was suggested, Covey said.
“This is our current policy but we will increase our efforts in this area,” he said.
Covey also said most residents he spoke with were concerned about realistic time estimates for plow service.
“This was one of our greatest shortcomings in the past storm. We gave people our best estimate, unfortunately they were off by many hours,” Covey said. “If we cannot guarantee an accurate estimate, we will provide at least a 24-hour notice.”
Other suggestions from the snow removal meeting included piling snow away from intersections to improve visibility, turning plow blades when passing driveways to minimize berms, changing worker days off to midweek and hiring more regular employees.
“Whatever we decide here tonight about staffing problems, however, won’t be fixed until next winter,” Covey said, again noting the time frame required to properly train rookie equipment operators.
Mayor Bob Drake and Councilmember Josh Susman questioned Covey about plow blade gates that can be attached to equipment to minimize berms. Drake said Tahoe City and South Lake Tahoe use the gates.
Covey said the gates are of no use in large storms that leave massive snow accumulations behind. He said the gates can reduce berms in light snowstorms. The town, however, would incur retrofitting costs and gates almost double snow removal times, he added.
“We budgeted for a level of service for a level of storm,” Councilmember Don McCormack said. “There comes a time in a storm when you can’t keep the roads two lanes wide and fully passable.
“Level II is not a happy level of service, but it lets properly equipped vehicles in and out and lets emergency vehicles get in.”
Tahoe Donner resident Parvin Darabi said the town must look at other options like coordinating plow times with the driveway contractors and asking for volunteers to help plow roads.
“I don’t believe the city has looked at other options,” Darabi said.
Tahoe Donner resident Paul Leyton said he saw a snowplow only once over the Jan. 24 weekend. He recommended hiring more personnel, raising worker wages, giving incentives for workers, redefining Level II storms and setting up lease-purchase agreements for more equipment.
Several residents questioned how tax assessment monies from Tahoe Donner are used. McCormack said the fees are $95 per developed parcel and $60 for those undeveloped, and the Tahoe Donner Association changed the use of these fees from snow removal service to road maintenance only.
“I was president of the association at the time and it requested it,” McCormack said.
Susman and Drake said snow removal will be addressed during the town’s next budgeting period.
“As the budget process moves on we will be looking at the complaints and what it will take to fix things,” Drake said. “We will do something; it may not be enough but we will try.”
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