Marlene Feist

It’s August, but let’s talk SNOW!

Marlene Feist, Public Works Director of Strategic Development, 509.625.6505

Thursday, August 17, 2017 at 5 p.m.

It’s August, but let’s talk SNOW!

While summer still surrounds us, the inevitable change of seasons isn’t too far off.  That means our City of Spokane Street Department is working to finalize updates to its Snow Response Plan.  The City committed to making changes to our snow plan following last year’s heavy snowfall and concerns about how we addressed the snow.

The City listened and has overhauled its plan.  Citizens will see:

  • More plowing, sooner.
  • More equipment and people available for snow removal.
  • Completion of a full-City plow during heavier snowfalls more quickly—in about three days.
  • Piloting of new equipment to minimize driveway berms.

While all the work isn’t finished yet, we are putting together a plan that will allow us to respond more quickly to snow conditions and to work in residential areas more frequently.  The upcoming winter will be a trial for these new plans, and we expect we will have to make tweaks along the way.

Back in the spring, we asked our citizens about how we respond to snow and what they would like to see changed.  Some 1,600 people responded to our online survey and others sent in comments via social media, email, and more. 

They told us they wanted to us to complete a full-City plow more quickly, starting at lower snow totals. They wanted us to communicate with them more effectively, keep snow off sidewalks, avoid driveway berms, and make schools, bus stops, and medical facilities a priority.

At the heart of our planned changes is a major shift in how we’ll go about day-to-day snow operations. When it snows—even if it’s just an inch or two, the City will be plowing all the streets, including residential streets, as part of their regular work days.  During small snowfalls, we’ll move more crews from regular duties to plowing efforts earlier and put more snow removal equipment out on the streets.  Those crews will work during their normal working hours and clear snow throughout the City.  

And when we do need to “up” our effort and move to 24/7 operations, we are planning to deploy enough people and equipment to complete that full-City plow in three days, from the usual four or so.

As for those pesky driveway berms, we’re buying two new loaders with “gates” and will equip five other pieces of equipment with those gates to avoid those berms. This is a pilot. We’ll rotate the use of the gates so different citizens will benefit.  If we see good results, we will buy more such equipment over the next several years.

We’re really open to adding new equipment that makes our jobs more efficient.  We are also buying two new pothole trailers to allow us to repair potholes at the end of winter more quickly and efficiently.

We’ll roll out the full snow plan soon. We still have decisions to make around sidewalk clearing and how to manage parking during plowing efforts.  The City’s elected leaders and managers are evaluating options for sidewalk shoveling and parking expectation as well as enforcement ideas for those options.  These items require a partnership with the community to help keep ensure the effectiveness of snow removal efforts.

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