Alderpersons side with Public Works Department in snowplowing debate
A representative of residents of the streets surrounding E.P. Rock Elementary School and Newton Field was unable to convince city officials to reverse a change in snowing operations there.
Freer Street homeowner Gordon Anderson met Thursday morning, Dec. 19, with an ad hoc committee of city representatives and a school official to see if a compromise could be reached.
Public Works and Parks Director Tom Zeuli and alderpersons Mary Yacoub and Kurt TeWinkel participated in the meeting in the council chambers at City Hall, along with Jim Stejskal, facilities and grounds supervisor for the Hudson School District.
The City Council called for the meeting when a group of neighborhood residents came to the council’s Dec. 2 meeting to protest the Public Works Department’s decision quit plowing all of the snow from streets toward the school property.
The practice apparently went on for close to 50 years.
Anderson, whom the council appointed to represent the neighborhood, proposed continuing to plow all the snow toward the school property for snowfalls of less than 9 or 10 inches.
In storms that dumped more snow than that, the city could plow it toward both side of the streets, Anderson suggested. He said the city could review how that worked early next fall.
But the problem with Anderson’s plan for Zeuli and three city plow operators in attendance was that it continued to require plows to drive into on-coming traffic.
“It’s just not the safe way to do things,” said Zeuli.
He said that in an increasingly litigious society, people are quick to sue if they feel the city is responsible for an accident.
A question often asked in court is whether the city was aware of a problem, Zeuli said. He said he didn’t want to say he was aware of a dangerous practice and didn’t do anything to attempt to change it.
Chuck Perlock, the Public Works supervisor, said he has had startled motorists shake a fist at him when they’ve had to veer into the on-coming traffic lane to avoid the plow he was driving.
“To me and my guys, it is a safety issue,” Perlock said.
He said plowing all the snow to the same side of the street also takes more time than plowing it both ways.
“We like to rock and roll out there on the streets,” said Perlock.
He said that when he heard the school district had requested a change in the plowing operation around E.P. Rock, he thought, “Thank God.”
Plow operators Dick Dembroski and Kevin Soltis also talked about the extra time it takes to plow the streets around E.P. Rock School because of the special practice.
The school district’s facilities and grounds supervisor said the district’s major concern was motorist sight lines at the entrances to E.P. Rock on 13th and Summer streets.
Stejskal said that last winter Police Chief Marty Jensen had pointed out the danger caused by high snow banks.
“There is extra cost in pushing it back,” he added.
Yacoub, chair of the council’s Public Safety Committee, indicated that she had to respect the opinions of the city plow operators.
“It doesn’t make sense,” she said of continuing the special treatment for the neighbors of E.P. Rock School, who until now haven’t had to deal with a berm of snow left at the end of their driveways when the plow passes by.
Yacoub said snow banks at the entrances to the school, and the intersection of 13th and Summer, are a safety concern.
When Yacoub and TeWinkel said they would back the Public Works Department’s decision to plow the snow to both sides of the streets around the school, Anderson it was, “further proof you can’t fight City Hall.”