Heavy equipment operators charging as much $130 an hour are being pressed into service by city and county officials still scrambling to get snow cleared from Spokane-area streets.
The city is adding 10 contracted road graders. Six started Thursday and the others will be on the job today, said city Streets Director Director Mark Serbousek. Spokane County, which has its own fleet of roughly 30 heavy graders, is adding a half dozen more contracted graders to help with snow removal in Spokane Valley, which pays the county to clear its streets.
“Those construction (graders) were eager to get some work,” said Dave Mandyke, Spokane’s public works director. “Those companies are sitting idle this time of year.”
Half the 10 city-contracted graders came from rental companies, the other half from construction companies, said Mandyke. The city will use its own staff for the rented graders. The other five construction graders will have their own operators.
The six county graders all came from road construction firms the county does business with, said County Engineer Bob Brueggeman. Operators from those firms will drive the equipment, he said.
City and county officials said snow removal will continue 24 hours a day until streets and roads are clear.
Because the city and county are dealing with emergency conditions, they’re allowed to circumvent standard contract-bidding requirements, said Mandyke.
The rates range from about $110 to $130 an hour, depending on the contractor, said Brueggeman.
Mandyke said some of the contractors contacted the city, offering their services. In other cases the city had to go through rental companies to find the graders.
“You really need graders for this kind of heavy snow,” Mandyke said. “They move very slow, but they’re built for moving heavy volumes of dirt.”