Amy Cunningham
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Winter may have made a surprise appearance last Wednesday, but area road crews were prepared for the storm, even if the season’s official start date was almost a week later on Dec. 21.
According to Rory Hale, Spring Hill’s Director of Public Works, that city tries to stay ahead of any storms before they roll into town.
“A lot of it has to do with the road surface temperatures,” explained Hale. “If we get any type of (freezing precipitation) we don’t wait until we get huge amounts of accumulation. If it’s accumulating to any depth we get out and get started. And if it’s ice, it’s a given, if we get any of that we should get out and get started.”
David Greene, Gardner’s Public Works Director echoed Hale saying that with any storm heading into the area during this time of year city crews are prepared to begin the task of clearing the city’s streets.
“If a storm is predicted we have people dispatched and ready to go, if there is an iffy forecast we’ll have people lined up and ready, but we won’t start until the police call in,” he said.
Edgerton’s city code states after two inches of accumulating snow plows must clear the streets.
“It depends on how slippery it is and what is coming, if (the storm) is getting ready to taper off we’ll hold off,” said Edgerton’s City Superintendent, Mike Mabrey.  “The decision is pretty much up to me (when we go out).”
Gardner, Edgerton and Spring Hill all have a policy of starting on the main arterials, those streets that carry traffic from collector roads to highways.
Once those main streets are cleared they concentrate on smaller city streets and move into subdivisions.
“We start with the main arterials.  We deploy the large trucks on those arterials and we put smaller trucks on residential streets and then try to open a path that way,” said Greene.  He explained that residents may get frustrated seeing the snow plows come into their neighborhoods only to make one path through the snow and then quickly leave, however those trucks will, usually, come back for more detailed work later.  “The first pass we go in and push a pass into it, we don’t completely clear the cul-de-sac.  We’ve just got too many cul-de-sacs.  But we try to give people a path in and out of their (subdivisions). We deploy out so we try to hit it simultaneously, and then work our way down to the smaller streets.  It may take us some time to get to the lower level streets, but that depends on what we’re dealing with.”
The unpredictability of a storm may also make scheduling drivers for snow removal a difficult task, but the managers in Gardner, Edgerton and Spring Hill have it down to a science.
“…We’re are able to work in 10 hour rotations. After-hours is usually when we get snow storms and our primary concern is working on emergency snow routes.  Then we get started on side streets, typically we do that during the daytime hours.  Working during daytime hours, that helps to eliminate some (overtime pay).  If we get snow during the day every public works employee is out doing something with it,” said Hale.
He went on to explain that eliminating those overtime hours is not always possible.
“The storm we had last year on Christmas was terrible and we had everybody out.”