Each falling snowflake during last winter’s record storms gouged a chunk of money from Post Falls’ and Rathdrum’s maintenance budgets.
This year, while El Nino may bless the cities with a lighter snowfall and therefore a lighter impact on city budgets, public works departments are preparing for the worst.
“I have a plane ticket to Phoenix,” chuckled Bill Madigan, Post Falls public works director.
Jokes aside, the public works department has a new snow removal policy and $42,805 from the city budget to cope with whatever nature dumps on the city this winter.
“What we did was we took the one (snow policy) from Coeur d’Alene and just massaged it for our use,” Madigan explained. “Why reinvent the wheel?”
The policy calls for the city’s snow removal vehicles to begin working when the depth of the snow reaches 4 or 5 inches. When there is ice on the streets, freezing rain or up to two inches of snow, the street department will spread sand or magnesium chloride on the roads as it deems appropriate.
The department will give priority in plowing to areas where emergency vehicles will travel, major roads and dangerous hills and curves.
Hundreds of people made requests for city workers to clear private driveways last winter, Madigan said at a city council meeting earlier this month.
“Some of them were strapping young guys, and I tell you, a shovel sure would have fit into their hands,” he said.
The new policy does not include provisions for city workers to plow private driveways, and it is illegal to put snow from private property onto public property or roads.
Workers will continue to plow snow into the center turn lane on Seltice Way through most of town - a practice Madigan that told the city council was unfortunately necessary.
In Rathdrum, the city bought a $5,000 plow to put on one of its newer trucks this year, bringing its total equipment used for snow removal to five trucks, one grader, one Ford Bronco for clearing parking lots and seven plows to hook up to the fronts of each of the vehicles.
The city will start with the main streets and then clear smaller streets, city parking lots and driveways of elderly or handicapped people.
“The more snow you have, the more problems you get, and you can’t reach everybody instantaneously,” said Robert Lloyd Jr., Rathdrum’s public works director.
While meteorologists cannot predict how much snowfall an area will receive, El Nino usually reduces the amount, said John Livingston, meteorologist in charge at the National Weather Service in Spokane. El Nino is a weather phenomenon in which the tropical waters of the Pacific Ocean warm, affecting weather patterns worldwide.
“In a typical El Nino year, looking back at records over the last 40 years, what happens is slightly warmer temperatures and less snow,” he said.
Lloyd sure hopes so.
Last year’s ice storm cost about $100,000 and long hours to clean up, he said.
“Here, we’re small enough that we can get everybody in an eight-hour day,” he said. “Each inch or so adds a couple of hours to the process.”
He did not predict a cost for this year.
, DataTimes MEMO: This sidebar appeared with the story: PREDICTING SNOWFALL El Nino usually reduces the amount of snowfall in the area. El Nino is a weather phenomenon in which the tropical waters of the Pacific Ocean warm, affecting weather patterns worldwide.