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Learning From Last Winter’s Snow Removal Disaster

Nov 28, 2014 04:49PM ● Published by Sherry Sorensen

As winter storms begin to dump snow in Cottonwood Heights, public works contractor Terracare will hit the streets to provide safe driving paths for cars in the city. Photo courtesy of Cottonwood Heights City

Last December, Cottonwood Heights residents were left stranded and frustrated after snow removal efforts failed to clear the roads in a timely manner.

It’s a fiasco city officials won’t soon forget and one they hope to never repeat.

This year, Mayor Kelvyn Cullimore Jr. said he’s confident that public works contractor Terracare understands what went wrong during its initial plowing efforts and what the city expects of it this season.

“We have really worked on Terracare and let them know that we only have one chance this year to make a good impression, and that’s in the first couple of storms. We have to make sure that we hit it so hard that the citizens are going ‘Wow! They did a good job,’ and everyone is happy.” Cullimore said.

Terracare started last season off with only five snowplows in Cottonwood Heights and drivers who were unfamiliar with their routes through the city. Couple that with several massive snowstorms, and it’s no wonder city officials were dealing with a barrage of calls from angry residents, Cullimore said.

To rectify the problem, Terracare has spent the past year in discussions with the city, planning snow removal priorities, routes and expectations. The number of available plows has increased from five to 18, with subcontractors on call during larger snow events.

“The biggest thing they’ve done is provide more training,” Cottonwood Heights Public Works Director Mike Allen said. “Drivers are training not only on their vehicles to understand the mechanics of driving, but they’re also becoming familiar with the areas they’ll be driving in. They’ve been out the last month driving through the neighborhoods to become familiar with their different routes.”

Residents can assist in snow removal efforts by being familiar with the city code, available online at cottonwoodheights.utah.gov, and understanding that streets are plowed according to priority. High traffic roads, such as Fort Union Blvd., are given priority one status. They are cleared first.



Other priorities include bus routes, sloped streets and school zones. When these roads can remain clear of snow, drivers then move onto neighborhoods streets with cul-de-sacs coming in last on the list.

City Manager John Park emphasized that it could take up to 24 hours after a snow event to clear the streets. Large or extended storms impact that time frame.

“I recognize that Mother Nature can throw you a curve, and you never know what kind of storm you’re going to have, but I don’t think there’s anything that we aren’t prepared to handle. And Terracare knows they have to do it right,” Cullimore said.

During a snow storm, it’s illegal to park on the streets. Vehicles found parked along the roadway impede snow removal and are subject to ticketing or towing. Residents should also avoid throwing snow from walkways and driveways out into the streets.

“I would say point that snow blower over toward the grass area of your yard. The lawn will really appreciate that come spring,” Allen said.     
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