Challenging winter for Glenwood snow removal
It’s been one step forward, one step back in the Glenwood Springs snow removal department this winter.
But Public Works Director Robin Millyard said crews are working diligently to clear side streets, parking lanes and alleys following a series of late-December and January storms that have already dumped nearly 60 inches of snow in town.
And, brace yourselves, there’s another potentially big storm due to hit late this weekend and into the first of next week, according to the National Weather Service forecast.
“We make some good progress, and then we get more snow, so it has been hard to keep up,” Millyard said. “We’ve also had some mechanical issues that haven’t helped.”
The city had to bring in its outside contractor, Gould Construction, to help with snow removal earlier than usual this winter, he said.
And the city is about to cut a check for nearly half of its $25,000 annual budget for contract snow removal, Millyard said.
“Our resources are small, and typically we have a little more help from Mother Nature,” he said. “But we’re not going to stop picking up snow even if we run out of money.”
According to the National Weather Service’s local weather observer network, Glenwood Springs has seen 58.9 inches of snow so far this winter. The average in-town snowfall since 1988 by this date is 37.5 inches.
Still, Millyard said this is a “light year” compared with some of the big snow years he’s seen in the last 20 years or so.
City Councilor Kathryn Trauger said she has heard some grumbling from residents and business owners about the city’s snow removal efforts.
“We have asked for some information from city staff about the priority for snow removal, and what streets get culled first,” she said.
That conversation is slated to take place during a City Council work session on Feb. 4.
“Some streets do tend to be worse than others,” she said. “I’ve also gotten some complaints from citizens about sidewalks and access to some of the trails they like to use.”
As for sidewalks, property owners are required to remove snow from public sidewalks that pass in front of their homes or businesses within 24 hours of a snowstorm. Failure to do so is subject to a fine.
Mayor Michael Gamba said he raised the question after the big Christmas Day snowstorm as to what the city’s policies and procedures are for snow removal.
“We do need to make sure we are doing a good job for our residents and businesses and visitors,” Gamba said. “Anecdotally, it does seem like we could perhaps do a better job of it, and I wonder if there isn’t some room for improvement.”
The city’s established snow removal schedule calls for emergency routes, school bus routes and main traffic corridors to be plowed first, Millyard said.
That includes Grand Avenue, which the Colorado Department of Transportation is responsible for plowing since it’s a state highway. Same with Highway 6/Sixth Street.
The city then comes in and clears snow from the center windrow and parking lanes, usually at night when not as many cars are present, Millyard said.
For the city’s part, first priority is also given to Midland Avenue, South Grand, Pitkin Avenue, Blake Avenue and Donegan Road, followed by the downtown commercial areas, and then the steeper streets such as Vista Drive, Sunny Acres, Traver Trail, North Glenwood, Red Mountain and the residential areas east of Grand Avenue. The flatter, low-lying streets are the last to be plowed.
This winter has been particularly challenging because of the higher volume of snow and the timing of the snowstorms, as well as the colder daytime temperatures, Millyard said.
Among the procedural questions that could be revisited is the age-old question of plowing snow to the middle of streets, or requiring people to remove parked cars for a period of time after a snowstorm and plowing to the side, he said.
“Picking up snow from the center windrow is pretty expensive and time-consuming,” Millyard said. “But if you exclude parking in places, that is a hardship on people.
“I do look forward to the discussion, and I’m not particularly married to the way we manage snow removal in the community now,” he said.
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Garfield County expects to receive $226,979 in National Forest Reserve payments for the year 2020 — money this year that will go to local public schools and emergency management services.