Wahpeton may revise snow removal policy

The city of Wahpeton is considering revisions to its snow removal policy. Potential changes could occur in matters like declaring a snow emergency to the cutting of packed snow and how long the procedure can take.

When does a snowstorm become a snow emergency? When should packed snow be cut from streets?

Mayor Steve Dale, Public Works Director Dennis Miranowski and other Wahpeton leaders discussed possible revisions to the city’s snow removal policy. A Tuesday, Jan. 14 meeting of the Public Works and Safety Committee concluded with Assistant City Attorney Brittany Hatting being directed to prepare an ordinance amendment to consider changes.

“There is some opportunity to wordsmith these ideas, add details and hash them out,” said Councilwoman at-large Tiana Bohn, the committee chair. “I’d like to keep this on the agenda.”

Wahpeton is forecast to experience snow showers and wind between Friday, Jan. 17-Saturday, Jan. 18. So far this winter, the city and surrounding area has experienced at least two heavy snowfalls. They occurred over the Thanksgiving and New Year’s Eve holidays.

“There were a lot of abandoned vehicles in places where they shouldn’t have been. It does affect the ability to recover from a large snow event,” Bohn said.

Bohn and Miranowski worked on the proposed revisions. The updates were made to reflect what the public works department does and what needs to be done, Miranowski said.

For example, the matter of declaring a snow emergency:

It is proposed that during snowstorms forecasted to have a snowfall greater than 8 inches, or heavy drifting snow, the public works director or designee with the concurrence of the police chief and the mayor may suspend the ordinances regulating parking. Such suspension would make it unlawful for vehicles to be parked on any street.

Currently, as outlined in Wahpeton’s snow plow policy, the snowstorm must be forecast to last two days or more, with a snowfall greater than 12 inches. The public works director, but not a designee, must concur with the police chief and mayor. When parking ordinances are suspended, it is unlawful for vehicles to park on emergency and special facilities routes.

Additional criteria under consideration include how to handle the cutting of packed snow.

What’s currently stated is that packed snow and ice that result in heavy rutting or irregularities will be cut with motor graders. Current policy also has it that loaders will allow the graders to remove the resulting windrow from driveways.

“(This is) such that no driveway is blocked for more than 30 minutes,” the policy states. “On streets with numerous driveways, two loaders per grader will be needed to open driveways within the above-stated time constraints.”

The 30 minutes or less concept, as well as the allocation of additional loaders, is being considered for removal. Being considered for inclusion is having cutting operations take place during daytime. The idea is to minimize property or equipment damage, according to the draft.

A separate procedure for widening is also under consideration. It currently exists under the policy for cutting.

The proposal is that snow banks resulting from previous accumulations of snow removal operations or drifting would be pushed back or shelved to make space for future snow storms as determined necessary. Alley widening may follow street widening where necessary.

Discussion of the proposals and possible alternatives will continue.

“When you are doing policy, it’s got to be for the next generation, that it’s clear for them,” Mayor Dale said. “All of a sudden, you have department personnel who aren’t meeting expectations. ‘Well, this is what it says,’ and no one knew what the intent was. I think it needs to be crystal clear.”

The next city council meeting is scheduled for 5 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 21 at City Hall, 1900 Fourth St. N. in Wahpeton.

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