Truckee, Placer County gearing up for winter
While residents are just starting to think about looking for snow shovels, the Town of Truckee and Placer County have been preparing for winter’s onslaught for months.
The town has been purchasing equipment, running maintenance programs, and hiring temporary public works staff since last spring. Truckee has also been awarding private snow removal contracts for Prosser Lake View, Prosser Heights, and the Downtown Parking District to supplement its own fleet of plows.
Snow removal as a whole costs a little more than $2.5 million per year, according to the town’s budget.
“We typically begin purchasing equipment in the spring and summer,” said Town Engineer Dan Wilkins. “There can be a two-month to one-year lead time in acquiring snow equipment, and we are getting equipment now for next winter.”
The town purchases new equipment as old equipment reaches the end of its life-span, Wilkins said, with most of the winter fleet lasting between 10 and 15 years.
Bret Albert, the town’s fleet manager, said the town has seven blowers, with two on the way; 14 plows; four sand trucks; and about eight to 10 pieces of support equipment, including dump trucks to move snow.
“We spend the majority of the summer preparing for the winter,” Albert said. “We do repairs and preventative maintenance all summer long, so by early October we are pretty much ready to push the fleet out there.”
Truckee has a year-round public works staff of 16, but that number is doubled through the winter for a period of three to six months, Wilkins said.
“We are in the process of hiring the temporary equipment operators ” we have 10 out of the 16 positions filled,” Wilkins said.
Contracts are awarded to private snow removal companies where it makes sense for the town’s work load, or where different equipment is needed, Wilkins said.
“The parking area downtown is better plowed with a bucket where there is no room on the sides to push the snow, so the town blade plows don’t work as well,” he said.
The town’s plan of attack in winter months involves multiple elements, Wilkins said.
“The first operation is plowing the arterial streets, the main roadways including Donner Pass Road, Glenshire Drive, Northwoods Boulevard and West River Street,” Wilkins said. “These are essentially the same routes as the school busses, so they start at 4:30 a.m.”
Plowing of secondary residential streets then begins at 6 a.m., Wilkins said.
During good weather, the fleet operates from 7 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., and plows run around the clock during storms, Wilkins said, with blowers removing berms after storms subsides.
Placer County is ready for the snow with an 11-person crew, a total of nine plows and five snow blowers, said Kevin Taber, the county’s public works manager.
“We are as ready as we are going to be right now,” Taber said. “We’ve got a full complement of full-time personnel up there.”
Placer County’s fleet includes three new motorgrader plows, which have snow gates designed to reduce driveway berms, Taber said.
The county has similar hours of operation to Truckee.
“When it’s dumping ” if we have to ” we can do 24-hour snow shifts for as many days as it takes,” Taber said.
On clear-weather days, crews will be on an eight-hour shift from 7 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., he said.
“We try to serve everybody in our jurisdiction equally: residents, vacationers and business,” he said.
The Town of Truckee fleet ran a three-month pilot project using biodiesel fuel to power some town equipment, and results should be presented to town council in December or January, said Bret Albert, Town of Truckee fleet manager.
“Unfortunately a lot of things happened with the fuel: the distributor went from low- to ultra-low sulfur diesel, and winterized from 10 percent to five percent biodiesel,” Albert said. “It really screwed up our testing procedure.”
Aside from mixed results on emission testing, biodiesel didn’t seem to affect maintenance or performance, he said.
“As far as I am concerned, we can talk about across the board B5 (five percent biodiesel) year-round,” Albert said. “But it’s up to town council whether the price increase is worth it.”
Albert said the fleet used 120,000 gallons of fuel a year, so switching to biodiesel could amount to an added cost of about $13,000 per year.