Snow removal criticized by Tahoe Donner residents
Snow removal is becoming a hot topic around Truckee.More than 40 town residents attended Truckee’s Snow Removal Advisory Committee meeting Tuesday to discuss problems and concerns getting to and from their homes during the last major storm system to move through the Sierra in January.Truckee Public Works Director Tom Covey said the committee meets after each major storm to critique how effective the town was in keeping major roadways and side streets open and passable.”After each snowstorm there are usually some mistakes that need to be answered,” Covey said, “so we organized a committee that meets regularly.”Covey said the group recommends corrective action and decides what went right during the storm or what went wrong. “Should we add more private contractors, should we increase public awareness or should we schedule more meetings?” Covey said.During the January snowstorms that kept some Tahoe Donner residents trapped in their homes for as long as three days, the public works department had its radio and telephone lines severed, did not relay accurate information to the public and inadvertently missed plowing a few streets, Covey said.But the audience did not buy it.Numerous stories were told about families trapped, residents in Tahoe Donner not seeing a snowplow for several days and others forced to miss work because roads were not plowed.”We were not sitting back in the public works yard smoking cigarettes and playing poker,” Covey said. “We were as frustrated as you.”One audience member said, “The Town of Truckee should get out of the snow removal business and let the private contractors take over.”Covey said the committee investigated that idea at a past meeting and decided private contractors would have to relinquish several accounts in order to plow roads. In fact, committee member Howard Rosamond, of S&R Snow Removal, estimated it would take six plows and a $1.4 million budget to adequately service Tahoe Donner alone.Another audience member said, “If you have got 23 employees and only seven regulars, the question is when we pay our property taxes why don’t we use the money for regular employees and get more help?”Covey countered with “a thumbnail diagram.” Using hypothetical figures, Covey said if the average home in Tahoe Donner sells for $250,000, then 1 percent of the assessed value is paid by the homeowner in property taxes. Of that percentage ($2,500), another 1 percent ($250) goes to the Town of Truckee, and is split between all town departments – finance, police service, community development, etc.”It boils down to the public works department gets about 125 bucks,” Covey said, adding that amount is split between summer and winter operations.Most suggestions for better service offered by the audience have already been investigated by the snow removal committee except three: crew shift differentials, cross training workers to operate all equipment and sending supervisors to investigate incoming calls reporting streets that have been missed.Covey said these suggestions will be further explored by the committee and reported on at a later date.Mayor Bob Drake attended the meeting and commended snow removal crews for their effort in trying to keep roads open. He also told the audience they should not place the blame on the public works department, but on the past town council – it turned Covey down one year ago when he requested money for more public works employees.”(Covey) is taking a beating the council deserves,” Drake said. “I publicly commend him for not placing the blame where it belongs. These are hard working men and women and don’t deserve to be vilified for not doing their job; it’s the council that’s not doing its job.”Audience members also brought up disincorporation and returning to Nevada County for snow removal service. Both Drake and Covey agreed that would be a bad idea. Covey said town residents’ snow removal service would not improve. Drake said, “If we disincorporate now the county would punish us beyond all comprehension.”The meeting concluded as everyone agreed to take the issue before the town council during the next regular meeting, Thursday, Feb. 20, at town hall.
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