New Tahoe City fire station: Short term snow storage issue heating up

Nick Cruit
Sierra Sun

TAHOE CITY ” North Tahoe Fire Protection District staff, Tahoe City business owners and snow removal contractors met for the first time Tuesday morning at the Tahoe City Public Utility District to discuss the implications of the new fire station, which is proposed to be built next to the utility district on Fairway Drive.

While the objective of the meeting was to ensure those affected by the relocation of the station were up to date on the project, and to identify any concerns they might have, tempers flew after the focus turned to the issue of snow removal, according to North Tahoe Fire Chief Duane Whitelaw.

The parcel of land where the fire district plans to build the station is used to store snow that is plowed away from Tahoe City businesses in the winter. But with the fire district planning to begin construction in May 2010, new snow storage locations need to be found by next winter if the fire district wants to break ground on time.

“How can you have all these things planned and not even have a new site to store snow secured?” questioned Jeff “Junior” Wilson, owner of Junior’s Snow Removal and Excavation. “They’re putting the cart before the horse.”

For the time being, Whitelaw said the short-term solution is identifying as many as four smaller locations where snow could be stored next winter.

But if sites stray to far from Tahoe City, the cost of snow removal could skyrocket because it would take snow contractors, who charge by the hour, too much time to drive to new storage locations.

“If the new sites go any further than the distance from the middle of Tahoe City to Fairway Drive then some people might go out of business,” said Matt Daniels, owner of Tahoe Marine and Excavating, the company that plows for the majority of Tahoe City businesses.

Daniels, who charges $800 an hour to haul snow, said some people couldn’t even afford snow removal this winter. And when patrons started parking in plowed lots and going to businesses that couldn’t afford snow removal, there would be fights between business owners over who could park where, Daniels added.

Business owners and snow removal contractors will get a second chance to voice their opinions at the next meeting regarding the new station, which will be held at the utility district board room on April 6 at 7 a.m.

In the meantime, Whitelaw said he would prefer not to divulge the potential snow storage sites currently being investigated, however, he did say the fire district would be meeting with the owners of those locations in the next few weeks to determine if they could be legitimate sites to store snow.

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