- Associated Press - Tuesday, January 12, 2016

BAY CITY, Mich. (AP) - Bay City officials are calling for a more aggressive approach to plowing snow from all city streets after a storm.

That’ll mean pretreating all intersections with salt, plowing from curb to curb and fast cleanup after a storm. The plan will hinge on getting vehicles off the streets so crews can do their work.

“I want our city to become a model when it comes to snow removal,” City Manager Rick Finn told The Bay City Times ( bit.ly/1Zf1Ga4 ). “We’re committed to improving services and this is a big piece of that.”

The Bay City Commission learned about the new approach at meeting last week, when Public Works Director Bill Bohlen broke down the new program and previewed ordinance amendments that the commission is expected to vote on in the coming months.

In the past, cars left on the street have prevented city plow crews from clearing snow efficiently and effectively, officials said.

The city has provisions in place to ticket those motorists or even tow their cars. According to the city’s code of ordinances, from Nov. 15 through March 31, overnight parking is allowed only on the odd-numbered side of the street on odd-numbered days and vice-versa for even-numbered days during a snow event.

But there hasn’t been much ticketing or towing over the years, officials say.

Come next winter, expect some changes.

Pointing to an outdated winter maintenance program, city officials are calling for a more aggressive approach to snow removal - especially for major events that quickly dump more than 6-inches of snow - that includes pretreating intersections before all snow events, plowing all local streets and increased salting on local streets.

Bay City road crews maintain 430 miles of streets throughout the winter, or about the same distance as traveling from Bay City to Houghton in the Upper Peninsula. Of the 430 miles, 138 miles are considered major city roads, 249 are local streets and 43 miles are state trunk lines. As many as 19 employees - 10 also work in the sanitation department - maintain 137 cul-de-sacs, 164 alleys, park walks, pathways, bridges and, occasionally, James Clements Airport.

The previous approach to snow removal in the city, Bohlen said, was limited to school routes and some intersections. Snow plowing didn’t commence until after 4 inches of snow accumulated and salting was primarily done on major streets and state trunk lines, not local streets.

In 2013-2014, the city budgeted $8,196 winter maintenance operations on local streets. That amount increased to $25,427 in the 2014-2015 fiscal year and was adopted at $38,131 in the current fiscal year. Salaries were also increased for winter maintenance.

That extra money is going to allow for six full, curb-to-curb plows on local streets when 3 inches - not 4 inches - of snow accumulates. That budget also includes more frequent salting on those streets, Bohlen said.

Road crews got a test run of the more aggressive approach before the New Year when several inches of snow, sleet and freezing rain pounded Bay County and most of the state. Bohlen’s crew had all local streets plowed within 24 hours of the storm’s end.

Cleaning streets that quickly in the future hinges on cars not being parked on roads during snowstorms, Bohlen said.

Before residents would see parking tickets on their hoods or their cars towed altogether, the city plans to roll out a big campaign educating people about complying with local snowplowing ordinances. That would happen sometime next fall, Bohlen said.

“I don’t anticipate any towing of vehicles this winter,” Bohlen said.

Cars left in the road after the first snow event under the new program would receive a warning before a ticket is issued.

In the case of major snowstorms, where more than 12 inches of snow falls, Finn said he would look to use city parking lots, allowing people to park there while streets are being plowed.

“It’s an approach I’ve used in other cities,” he said. “People can park there for the entire snow event, maybe have someone drop them off or pick them up, all free of charge.”

Ray Armstrong, who lives on the city’s East Side, said he was impressed with the city’s plowing following the last big storm on Dec. 28 and is in favor of the city being more aggressive getting cars off the road.

“My biggest complaint has always been the cars on the road, because the snow just ends up staying on the road,” he said. “If people don’t fear keeping their cars in the streets, they’re not going to worry about a sticker on their window.”

City officials are also going to introduce an ordinance that would allow the city manager to call for a snow emergency when the weather forecast calls for a snowstorm of 6 inches or more. There isn’t any type of similar ordinance on the books.

“By issuing a snow emergency, we can get the word out and work quicker with the community to get cars off the streets,” Bohlen said.

Even with a more aggressive snow removal plan, city officials anticipate the occasional large pile of snow in the road, especially if cars are parked in the street during plowing. Finn is advising residents to use the FixIt Bay City smartphone app or an online tool available at www.baycity.mi.org. The app allows people to report everything from potholes to areas of the street that need snow removed.

“We watch that app like a hawk and it really works,” Finn said. “If people get into the habit of using that, we can get things done efficiently and quickly.”


Information from: The Bay City Times, https://www.mlive.com/bay-city

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