Snow removal work continues into spring | SierraSun.com

Snow removal work continues into spring

David Bunker
Sierra Sun

Photo by Ryan Salm/Sierra SunSnowbanks get cleared on Skislope Way in Tahoe Donner this week.

It’s a sign of spring just as much as blooming flowers, sunny skies and warming temperatures ” snowplow drivers changing jobs.

But this year, even as the Town of Truckee let go of their 19 snow workers for the season, winter persisted with heavy snow and cool temperatures.

It’s just another quirk in a wild winter that had snow removal personnel clearing drains for a deluge of rains during the middle of winter, and battling heavy snow during spring.

“Early on with all the rain, instead of plowing snow, we were doing a lot of drainage work … keeping roads from washing out,” said Dan Wilkins, Truckee public works director.

The end result of a winter of rain and snow work has been a snow removal budget that closely resemble last year’s. This year’s snow budget is expected to pencil out at around $2.5 million. Last year’s snow removal costs were $2.7 million, although that included some large equipment replacement costs.

Of course the similarity all depends on the unpredictable end to winter.

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“It’s too early to call it,” said Wilkins. “We’ve got another month and a half to get to June.”

Caltrans is attempting to hang on to their seasonal employees for several more weeks, said agency spokesman Mark Dinger. But many seasonal workers are choosing to leave for summer work. The agency has had to use Caltrans employees from the valley to augment the snow removal crews over the last storms, Dinger said.

Caltrans has not yet set a date for letting go of their winter workers, he said.

Despite the drop off in manpower, the Town of Truckee is confident it can handle any more winter storms that roll in before summer begins. The work might just take a little longer, Wilkins said.

“We’re running at about half our peak winter frequency,” he said.

But spring storms, if there are any left, are usually warmer and easier to clean up after, Wilkins said.

While the town has its hands full with simple snow removal, some residents are calling for the town to step into the berm removal business.

Although the public works department could grow to add berm removal services to its other tasks, Wilkins said the decision would mean either slower snow removal service on town streets or would require a large amount of funding.

The town has examined several alternatives for eliminating berms, and each have their costs.

Some plows can be outfitted with “gates,” said Wilkins, which will block snow from piling up in front of driveways. But the contraptions become ineffective in large storms, he said, which is when the berm problem is most pronounced.

Otherwise, if the town had to buy driveway clearing equipment and add more workers, the berm service could end up nearly doubling the snow removal budget each year, which now stands at approximately $2.5 million.

“We can provide a berm service , it’s just a question of who’s going to pay for it,” Wilkins said.

If the current snowplow staff also had to plow and clear the estimated 13,000 driveways in town, the street plowing frequency would be cut in half, Wilkins approximated.

Ultimately the town council would have to authorize a decision on whether the town gets involved in berm removal.