Snow, cold create challenges for Chatfield maintenance crew

GRETCHEN MENSINK LOVEJOY/CHATFIELD NEWS Chatfield has remained in a perpetual snow emergency this winter, and signs notifying motorists not to park along streets have emerged from the snow banks as city crews attempt to keep ahead of the latest snowstorm.
By : 
Gretchen Mensink Lovejoy
Chatfield News

Um, let it snow?

“For the most part, Chatfield has essentially operated in a continuous snow emergency this winter. It was a more mild January, but the month of February has been very busy,” stated Chatfield City Maintenance Foreman Brian Burkholder.

As he took a look around at the piles of snow on the boulevards and on each corner, Burkholder continues trying to figure out where his crew is going to put the next snowfall.

He commented that the city is running out of space to park snowfall after the blizzard that dropped over a foot of snow overnight from Feb. 23 to Feb. 24. The city’s boulevards are piled high with snow removed from the streets, and the plowing crew is finding it difficult to figure out where the next storm’s precipitation might have to end up.

“We are getting close. The streets are getting full, and there’s no place for the snow to go but residents’ driveways. We had to open up the new lots on Enterprise Drive that I never planned to use, and also an extra spot in Mill Creek was opened, and also a lot behind,” Burkholder said. “Strongwell on Enterprise Drive was opened, but if it slows down, we should be okay. The boulevards are getting very high. There is no place for the snow to go from plows, so the roads are getting much narrower each time we plow.”

The city did “step them back” twice, trying to make room on the streets for new snow. “We also pushed back some intersections so it is easier to see,” Burkholder added. “We will be blowing curb lines this week and removing snow from cul de sacs this week, hoping to clear up streets and intersections, but most importantly, it’s to open up catch basins and curb lines for water to run, if and when it melts. Our salt and sand is holding up so far, and I’ve ordered extra sand to have on hand and are now using that supply of sand.”

The tall snowbanks on street corners have meant that motorists have to be more cautious about passing through intersections and making turns, and that they must watch for plow drivers working to relocate snow.

“Occasionally, there are people who are following our plows too closely,” Burkholder added. “Plows make frequent stops and back up. If you see a plow ahead, please stay way back a couple hundred feet or take a different route.”

He observed that Chatfield’s on-street parking arrangements for snow emergencies have received more attention with the implementation of the city’s citizen alert system that sends messages to phones and other devices.

“Parking is getting better with the new alert system,” he said. “Please sign up for the alert system for notifications of plowing and snow removal events. Starting next year, this will be the best and only way I will be putting out notifications for snow events. This is also good for any other emergencies that may arise — water main breaks, et cetera. This system has helped throughout the year, with 105 cars plowed around, down to around 10 to 15.”

Burkholder reminded residents to get out their shovels and help the fire department in case of a residential fire. “Please clear hydrants nearest your residence,” he said. “We did take a day between plowing and snow removal to open hydrants up. Every minute, a fire doubles in size, so time is very important.”

He cited that equally — or even more — important is knowing where one’s children are during the winter, as they cannot be seen if they have built snow forts in the snowbanks along the streets.

“It’s very dangerous,” Burkholder said. “Plow drivers cannot see if kids are in the forts along the road, and the kids could suffocate if buried in the forts.”

The city recently made allowances for Burkholder to hire temporary help to handle the snow emergencies, especially following February’s blizzard and January’s polar subzero temperatures.

“January wasn’t too bad, but we learned that we are unable to do snow removals at negative 10 to negative 15 degrees, as a few pieces of equipment started to gel up,” Burkholder explained. “The skating rinks have lost our attention as we are concentrating on snow removal on streets and cul de sacs, so they have not been open. The outside rink is open now, but it has not been swept or water added.”

He added that he feels the biggest challenge this winter has been employees who are starting to get burned out with all the extra hours clearing snow, then doing removal. “They have been working very hard, with long hours, along with the state and county drivers,” Burkholder said. “I believe they have done a great job. Comparing to other towns, I think Chatfield streets look pretty good considering the amount of snow that we have received. It’s been a very different winter compared to others in the past years.”

Burkholder expressed his appreciation to Chatfield’s residents for their kindnesses to the city crew. “We have received some sweets for break and have also received a couple meals from residents. We really appreciate that. Thank you to all,” he concluded.