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Comment Archives: stories: Culture & Food: Arts & Culture: Last 7 Days

Re: “Snow Removal Blues

Hi Kelly Rae, i think i might have a few answers for you as i used to work for the city of Spokane street dept for several years and have an inside scoop on many of it's workings. First off the deicer we use is a magnesium cloride which is designed to be applied to the road to prevent the snow from sticking so that we can plow the streets cleaner. It also can deice a thin layer of packed snow and ice usually no more than 1 inch thick. Now that is only if it is applied at a heavy rate of 40-80 gal per lane mile or more. Now our head management has told us time and time again only to apply it at 20-30 (gplm) and also only on hills, curves and lit intersections. Which means that all of the spaces in between will remain super icy and at such a low rate even the hills will only see safe ice melting after multiple applications from several shifts of workers. The only reason the deicer is not applied to the entire route and at an effective rate in the first place is, you guessed it money. Our head engineer Andy Schenk only cares about staying on budget. He will sacrifice pubic safety time and time again just so he doesn't look incompetent and have to ask the city council for more funding. He also gets a bonus if we keep our deicer budget under what city hall has allocated. So that is the main reason why the arterials in town remain super icy for most of the winter. He also buys the cheapest plow trucks money can buy. The paticular brand of Freightliner trucks we buy are terrible for plowing snow and do not even have a locking differential. They are constantly breaking down. Which means of the 60 or so peices of snow removal equipment we have at least 20 percent are usually broken down and waiting for repairs. Again it's a money thing as a nice Mac or Kenworth can cost 200k plus but a Freightliner costs only 120k. We also have lost many positions in the last 30 years. I think we had somwhere around 100 employees 30 or 40 years ago. Now we only have 60 do to yearly budget cuts. We also spread those 60 people out very thin to cover day and night shifts 7 days a week during the winter months. Our management also doesnot like to pay overtime wages and time and time again refuses to call in the entire work force for an active storm. Leaving on an average day or night maybe 12 people to make sure that every arterial street in town is safe. That is the best case, not including those on vacations or out sick. As far as the trucks running with their plows up. Most likely the truck has either a mechanical issue and is heading in for repairs or the driver is heading in for a lunch break. You can only plow at 10-15 miles an hour and that takes a long time to drive back to the shop for break. So to sum up bad management decisions have basically tied the hands of the employees who are trying to be as efficient as possible. That and a lack of good equipment and proper staffing equals poor response times during and after snow events.

Posted by mike t on 01/14/2017 at 4:30 AM

Re: “Snow Removal Blues

Interesting when the Inlander, the liberal publication, writes a sympathetic article, to the "plan" and the Spokesman-Review, the conservative paper writes an article comparing other cities management to Spokane's versus the statements of those in charge of the budget for our streets. When the SR makes a criticism it's probably well beyond the time for something to be done. I'm surprised, Inlander. I think we'd all like to know how, in a multi-million dollar streets budget, the city only allotted $750,000 to snow-plowing, knowing this was going to be terrible winter? If Madison, WI and other cities about our size are doing a better job, it's time to ask some different questions. The revenue being lost from lack of plowing may be greater than that spent on not plowing, not to mention accidents this year. I think it's time for a lot of us to speak up at City Hall next public opportunity. People getting stuck on Main Street Downtown, a major thoroughfare. Plows going around with their blades up. People want answers.

1 like, 0 dislikes
Posted by Kelly Rae Mathews on 01/10/2017 at 2:46 PM

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