November 20, 2010 in Washington Voices

Snow season plans in place

By The Spokesman-Review
Map of this story's location
Snow line

City of Spokane Valley snow information line:

(509) 720-5311

Snow is coming.

Spokane Valley snowplowing crews went to 24-hours-a-day, seven-days-a-week alert on Friday. The snow information line has been activated and this week the City Council gave the nod to some small changes to the city’s de-icing policy.

The plan is to use liquid de-icer when snow, frost or ice is expected and granular de-icer will be used when snow begins to accumulate, particularly on bridges, arterial intersections and hillsides.

“Years ago we did a lot more sanding,” Neil Kersten, public works director, said during last Tuesday’s council meeting. However, sand clogs up the dry wells and also has a lot of phosphorus, which can contaminate the aquifer. “In the spring we spend a lot of money cleaning up the sand by sweeping it.”

The granular de-icer is gritty, providing some traction, and sticks better than salt, Kersten said. “It works longer,” he said.

The city has three drivers on the payroll and has a contract with Poe Asphalt to provide 16 more. There will be seven trucks hitting the roads and two graders. If the city gets a huge snowfall, the city has a list of on-call drivers and equipment that can be called in to help out.

When snow falls, primary arterials like Argonne Road and Sprague Avenue will get first priority. After they are done secondary arterials and hillside residential streets will be plowed. Residential streets on the Valley floor will only be plowed if four or more inches of snow falls, but that number is flexible, Kersten said. “Four inches of wet, heavy snow is a lot different than light, dry snow,” he said.

The city’s plan calls for plowing flat residential streets “when functional traffic flow is substantially inhibited.”

“It gives us a lot of flexibility,” he said.

The city is also prepared for when residents call to ask when plows will visit their street. The trucks are fitted with a GPS system that shows where the trucks have been and what was done. “We can monitor where the trucks are at all times,” he said.

In other business, the council heard a report on proposed changes to the city’s municipal code covering adult retail establishments. As it is phrased now, such businesses can allow viewing of their products, and a resident complained that a local adult business was using the somewhat vague phrasing to show pornographic movies in small, dimly lit rooms for an hourly fee.

That sort of activity is covered under city code governing adult entertainment businesses. “There are different rules for adult entertainment than there are for adult retail,” said acting city attorney Cary Driskell. An adult entertainment business has to follow stricter regulations, get additional licenses and have more oversight.

The idea behind the current phrasing was to allow people to pick up and view adult merchandise, not that pornographic films would be shown, Cary said. “They have a constitutional right to look at it,” he said.

The proposed new language would specify that if a patron wants to view merchandise it “shall not be in exchange for money or any other form of consideration.” The wording would also say that it wasn’t the city’s intent to allow “on-premises viewing of adult-oriented graphic film, videotape or other digital display” in adult retail businesses.

The council unanimously agreed to send the proposed code amendment to the planning commission for a public hearing.

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