Akron snow crews deployed for next snow storm; Council praises snow removal efforts thus far

February 09, 2010

Just as Akron residents are recovering from the weekend's snow storm which covered the city with 10 inches of snow, the National Weather Service has issued another winter storm warning effective in the area from noon today to 7 p.m. tomorrow.

By some estimates, the city could expect 4 inches at best and one foot at worst by this afternoon.

But the manager of the city's Bureau of Public Works assured Akron City Council that crews are still working round-the-clock to continue clearing snow from the weekend, and to prepare for the snow to come.

"We have everything that will push snow and spread salt out there working," said Paul Barnett, manager of the city's Bureau of Public Works during Monday afternoon's Public Service Committee meeting. "Since the day before the snow we've been going 24-7. We've almost completed all residential streets and will be going back to the primary streets."

The snow crews have a three-step system to attack heavy snowfall in the city. It begins by clearing the approximately 62 primary routes until they're passable before moving on to the 22 secondary streets. The eight or nine expressways are plowed last. Barnett said crews are now clearing downtown streets and expressways for traffic, and to prepare for the coming snow activity.

Barnett assured Council that the roads are more than adequately salted and that while 20 of the division's 60 vehicles are being serviced for minor repairs, he expects to have a full-strength fleet of 51 units on the roadway when the expected snow starts. And full-strength crews will be needed mainly for all the plowing to be expected, Barnett said.

"When we have heavy snow, we don't go through much salt. Most of the time we are just plowing," he said. "An inch of snow is more expensive to salt than it is to plow a foot of snow."

Barnett said so far the city has spent $2.5 million on snow removal this year, versus $4 million for last year's snow season.

Plowing can result in blocked residential driveway approaches that irk some residents. Unfortunately, snow crews cannot avoid blockage, Barnett said, but help is available for disabled and senior residents. Qualifying residents may be eligible for a sanitation exemption which entitles them to having their driveways cleared by the city, and also allows sanitation workers to arrange to pick up their trash where it's convenient for the home owner - whether at a front or side door, or in a driveway.

For information about the sanitation exemption, call Akron's 3-1-1 information line from a residential phone line, or call (330) 375-2311 from a business or cellular phone.

All other residents are advised to clear spaces in their driveways to set out trash and recycle bins in accordance with the division's guidelines: approximately three feet apart and with the arrows on the lids facing the street. Barnett said taking the extra time to do so will save the division from injured and slowed sanitation workers who have to leave the automated sanitation trucks to empty bins by hand.

Barnett invited Council representatives to visit the Public Works bureau to get a close-up glance at how his department operates during a snow storm. He hopes the Council members will in turn share that information with their constituents. He also offered to attend council members' ward meetings explain the city's snow removal process.

"We'll share the maps with you and we'll share exactly how we do it," he said. "It's like triage: you hit the areas that give you the biggest bang for your buck and meet the biggest needs. "Once people understand the method to the madness, they are more accepting of why we do what we do."

Barnett also said his office is presently printing new informational brochures about the city's snow removal program to deliver to residents.

"Akron is recognized in the industry as being world-class with snow and ice removal," Barnett said. "A lot of communities tailor their processes to ours."

Considering the amount of snow Akron received over the weekend, Council members said constituents were patient with the clearing efforts.

"I'd like to commend everybody that works in the Public Works Bureau," said Ward 1 Councilman and Public Service Committee Chair James P. Hurley III. "I've only received three calls all weekend."