June 16, 2009 in City

City may purchase 11 snowplow blades

By The Spokesman-Review
 

City leaders hope to have a bigger arsenal to clear the pavement if Spokane gets another batch of deep snow this winter.

The Spokane City Council next week will consider paying $200,000 for 11 new plow blades that could be put on dump trucks in the city water and sewer department fleets.

The purchase would increase the number of city plows to 46, 31 percent more than were available during December’s storms.

“It’s that many more pieces of equipment we can get out there to clear the streets,” Street Director Mark Serbousek said.

The idea to buy plows for water and sewer department trucks was mentioned in January by Mayor Mary Verner as one way the city could improve its clearing response.

The plows will be used primarily by the sewer and water departments to clear city utility properties, such as at the city sewage plant, Public Works Director Dave Mandyke said.

“The bottom line is they have significant outlying facilities that they have to get into,” he said.

But if the city experiences storms that overwhelm city resources – such as the snowfalls in January 2008 and in December 2008 – the water and sewer plows would be called to action.

Serbousek said it takes about a foot of snow before extra crews are needed.

Mandyke said that after the first day’s snowfall in December, the city struggled to get employees to work at its sewage plant because of conditions on Aubrey L. White Parkway. The new plows will ensure that a route to the plant remains open, he said.

Last winter, the city spent more than $600,000 leasing extra equipment and contracting for extra help. That was part of a total snow removal bill of about $4 million.

Because the plows would be purchased by money raised from utility bills rather than taxes, the street department will have to pay the water and sewer departments if they are used to clear roads. Serbousek said rates haven’t been set.

City Council members said they expect taxpayers to save. “Hopefully, it will allow the city to have the capacity to do all the plowing without using independent contractors,” Councilman Richard Rush said.

Councilman Steve Corker called the cost of leasing equipment last winter “horrific.” “It’s an investment to help reduce the entire cost we experienced,” he said.


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