On a night when local roads were unseasonably clear, the Spokane Valley City Council turned its attention to the topic of snow removal.
Public Works Director Neil Kersten provided an administrative report of the city’s current snow clearing/deicing policies at the Dec. 27 council meeting, a presentation that served as an overview of the costs and procedures associated with winter protocol.
When the governing board could not reach a consensus on renewing the street maintenance contract with Poe Construction, a change order was approved to ensure that eradication of snow and ice would continue until the council meets again on Jan. 10.
Kersten provided a brief description of the city’s snow clearing priority list which leads with primary arterials like Sprague, Sullivan and Pines. Secondary arterials are next, followed by hillside residential streets and finally Valley floor residential roads.
“We just deal with them accordingly based on the conditions,” Kersten said.
Kersten added that snow crews hit the streets when a minimum of four inches of snow has fallen and more is anticipated. The policy also hinges on calls from citizens about trouble spots.
“We look at a number of things,” Kersten said.
Kersten described how snow clearing on residential roads can generate additional issues, most of which revolve around the formation of “berms,” large heaps of compacted snow that can create havoc for motorists.
“We get a lot of complaints,” Kersten said. “There are a lot of people who don’t like berms in their driveways.”
The city’s cost to address the final section on the priority list can run between $60,000 to $70,000 per clearing, Kersten said. On Nov. 27, 2010, a complete plow of residential streets ran $63,000. The city has an annual snow-clearing budget of $520,000. Funds that are not utilized go back into the municipal street fund. There is also $500,000 currently kept in a reserve fund for snow plowing.
Spokane Valley formed its own snow-removal fleet in 2009 after Spokane County abruptly informed the city that it would not continue to provide service. The final contracted winter with Spokane County (2008-09) included some of the heaviest snowfall in recent history, including a record 60 inches in December. That month, the city spent $587,000 on road clearing. In January 2009, the bill was $625,000.
Spokane Valley’s current convoy includes half-a-dozen plow/sander trucks, two plow/deicer trucks, two graders with side wings and one deicer truck. Additional vehicles can be contracted based on extreme weather conditions.
Kersten added that having an experienced crew familiar with Spokane Valley roads has been“very helpful.”
“I think we have a good level of service at a very good cost,” Kersten said.
Kersten said the city has maintained a cost-effective approach to snow clearing, especially when compared to neighboring cities like Spokane which spends an average of $1,500 per lane mile. Spokane Valley’s cost is $519 per lane mile.