City begins spring cleanup process with help of new street sweeper

Chatfield's new street sweeper has been put to work, even before last week's freak snowstorm. GRETCHEN MENSINK LOVEJOY/CHATFIELD NEWS
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Gretchen Mensink Lovejoy
Chatfield News

Ahh, springtime.

Birds singing, grass greening, flowers blooming, trees budding, laundry on clotheslines, streets being swept, toilets bubbling.

City Maintenance Supervisor Brian Burkholder and his crew have put in a long winter behind the wheel of the city snowplow, and they’re excited to see grass, even though grass means they’ll soon be mowing lawn in the parks, and they’ve also got quite a list of tasks to complete as the snow from the final snowstorm melts away.

“I’m really looking forward to not watching the weather every day and checking the weather early in the morning,” Burkholder shared.

However, he cited that even though it’s very tempting to put away the plows, it’s too early to do so in April.

“It would be a gamble. It’s unpredictable each year. I’m thinking May, sometime,” he added. “We do usually keep the snow equipment handy until the mowing season starts.”

Burkholder outlined what he and his workers have in store for them in the coming weeks, including pothole repairs, patching where the city had water main breaks and repairing a few culverts that froze and damaged the roadway this winter. They will also be repairing a few catch basins, replacing five hydrants on Highway 52, completing the Industrial-Enterprise Drive project, overseeing a County 145 mill and overlay project, repairing a couple manholes and repairing some sidewalks.

“We will be installing a mixer in the 10,000-gallon tank soon because we had problems with ice buildup during the cold weather — that helps to keep it from freezing and improves the quality of the water,” Burkholder said. “We’re fixing any areas of sod that we may have dug up during plowing or snow removal, and we changed the downtown banners to spring.”

In Chatfield’s parks, there’s work to be done as well. “In the parks, we plan to plant a few trees, paint the skate park shed, stain the warming house, stain the city park playground and tourist center and possibly paint some on the bandshell,” Burkholder added.

All that is planned to spiff up Chatfield, from south to north and east to west.

“And mostly, sweeping of the streets makes a big difference. If the streets are completely clear of snow, it takes roughly two weeks to complete,” he explained. “If you start too early and receive snowfall where we need to sand, we would need to go back and re-sweep again, and that would be a waste of time and money. The biggest challenge is making sure that the snow season has ended, and waiting for the frost to come out. We usually fill potholes after sweeping is complete, or during. It is easier to find the holes once they have been swept. If you fill potholes too early, before the frost, you may need to tear them back out and would need to redo them. Sweeping too early, we may need to re-sweep.”

The city purchased a newer street sweeper in September, leaving the troubles the old model had behind in the dust.

“It was delivered here on March 30. We traded a 2002 in for a 2009 model. The old sweeper needed some major repairs,” Burkholder said. He pointed out that in addition to having a newer street sweeper, the job can be done more quickly with the cooperation of residents.

“We ask that residents remove vehicles from the streets and to not rake the leaves or debris into the street. There is an ordinance that does not allow debris to be placed in the roadway. It eventually plugs the storm drains and causes storm water to back up,” Burkholder said.

And with backing-up water in mind, he said the city would be jetting sewer lines in April. A statement on the city’s website shared how the process will work. “A cleaning nozzle is propelled from one manhole to the next using water under high pressure. The nozzle is then pulled back to the starting manhole. As the nozzle is pulled back, water scours the inside of the sanitary sewer pipe…this process is repeated on every sewer line cleaned. During cleaning of sanitary sewer lines, air occasionally vents into a home through the sanitary sewer service line and ventilation system. When this happens, water in the toilet bowl can bubble or surge or, in rare instances, splash out of the bowl. We remind you that the water that could come from this type of incident is from the bowl itself. The common causes of air venting into homes during sanitary sewer cleaning are air movement from normal cleaning operations, the use of higher pressure needed when cleaning sanitary sewer lines that have a steep slope, sewer lines running close to the building, a plugged roof vent, and the size and complexity of the home’s waste and ventilation system. To minimize the chance of water splashing out of your toilet bowl, please keep the lid down.”

Burkholder observed that bubbling toilets are a possibility. “It could happen, depending on the pressure that it takes to clean the lines. It also depends on how the plumbing is done in the home or if the vent is plugged,” he said.

Finally, he offered what residents can do to help make Chatfield look more inviting and to assist the city crew in welcoming springtime.

“Raking and cleaning up their property usually makes the city look nice…and cleaning up the sidewalks in front of their property,” Burkholder said. “Please clean up the street after you’re done with your yard to help keep the debris from clogging the catch basins.”