Street challenges sideline sidewalk snow removal
Three weeks out from the region’s last significant snowfall, the City of Minot’s snow removal teams can still be seen busying themselves sanding, widening and grading the city streets. As Minot drivers have settled into the flow of winter driving, it hasn’t been as easy for pedestrians to get back into the swing of things.
Minot homeowners are responsible for clearing the sidewalk around their homes to keep them walkable for pedestrians and postal workers. However, the city has been slow to address the approximately 26 miles of sidewalks, with a few stretches of sidewalks and walking paths around town snow-covered or impassible due to walls of piled up snow.
“It’s been a common topic of conversation here for the last several weeks. We are taking a look at this,” said Minot City Manager Harold Stewart.
A representative with the Public Works Department said the city’s snow removal teams go by the snow removal plan, which requires roads to be finished before they turn their attentions to the sidewalks. The City of Minot’s Public Information Officer Derick Hackett said the issue isn’t a matter of resources, but rather one of time and available space.
“People are really accustomed to us getting everything cleared up in 72 to 96 hours after a typical snow. A lot of this is manpower. We’re short staffed and we don’t have a full fleet. They’re people too. They get sick; they have kids,” Hackett said. “After the snows we’ve had, it gets compounded and built up, and we run out of places to push it around.”
The consequence of such compounded accumulation is that snow removal teams have to haul the snow out in trucks and can’t simply run a plow or a grader. Such activities have to be isolated to night shifts so as not to disrupt traffic during the day, which limits the window available for them work.
“We do main roads at night and things like cul-de-sacs during the day. Traffic dictates what gets worked on,” Hackett said. “These are the challenges that slow us down.”
Even when the city’s teams are able to tackle sidewalks, Hackett conceded they may not have enough skid steers to cover all the ground in front of them. One solution to fill the gap is to contract third parties while the city’s teams continue to focus on widening the streets.
“We are currently working on RFP with staff to contract a local contractor with assisting with snow removal on sidewalks to expedite that process. Once we get some quotes and cost estimates, we can take that to city council,” Stewart said.
With the forecast mostly clear of precipitation heading into the next week, a representative from the Minot Public Works Department was hopeful that the teams would be able to commit some staff early next week.