Ames overhauls city snow removal plan

Matt Kuhns

In response to resident discontentment with city snow plowing, the Ames City Council approved an expanded snow removal plan at a meeting earlier this month.

“People wanted better snow removal, [and] we try to listen to what the people want,” said Judie Hoffman, at-large city councilwoman.

As a result of the newly-approved changes, several Ames streets will be plowed earlier when snow falls this winter.

The previous snow policy defined two types of streets. The first, including major streets and all CyRide routes, was plowed after two inches of snow; the second, including all other streets, was plowed after three inches fell.

Ames Public Relations Officer Clare Bills said the new plan establishes a “blue route” consisting of well-traveled streets not listed in the first tier. If Ames receives two inches of snow, plowing will begin on the blue route immediately after the main streets and CyRide routes are cleared.

Some of the streets in the blue route not included in the first wave of plowing are Wilder Boulevard, Franklin Avenue, West Street and Stone Brook Road.

Bills said the blue route was designed to include streets around the elementary schools and to ensure all residents will be no more than two blocks from a plowed street.

Hoffman said the city also will start plowing all streets, even if three inches of snow have not fallen, if the snow is wet and could freeze over.

The revised snow removal plan also reduces the shift length for snow plow drivers from 16 hours to 12 hours. Hoffman said the change will hopefully keep plow drivers fresher and more alert.

As a result of the expanded snow removal plan and shorter shift lengths, Bills said the city will be looking for temporary help in plowing the streets this year.

The new plan also addresses complaints that, in clearing the streets, plows block off driveways with snow.

Hoffman said while it is impossible not to pile snow in driveways on many streets, plow drivers will be trying to keep snow out of driveways in cul-de-sacs by moving the snow to the middle of the circles.

The new snow removal plan will cost “about $2,000 [more] per snow plow event,” Bills said. Overall, she said the added cost will be $20,000-$25,000, in addition to the $400,000 the city already budgets for snow removal.

Bills said the snow removal budget is paid for with tax money allocated to the state for upkeep of state roads, and the new plan will simply shift more of that money to snow removal.

Hoffman said the snow removal changes were unanimously approved by the council, adding that it is not the sort of issue that receives much debate.

“The council was in complete agreement,” she said.

The revisions to the city’s snow removal plans were, in part, a response to the Resident Satisfaction Survey the city conducts every year.

In last year’s survey, 33 percent of respondents rated the snow removal in their neighborhood as “poor” or “very poor.”

Bills said even though two-thirds of the respondents were positive about snow removal, the city felt there was still room for improvement.

“We’re working internally to improve everything we do,” she said.

Hoffman said the repeatedly low marks snow removal has been given in Resident Satisfaction Surveys are part of the reason the council acted on the latest survey results.

“When you get the same response a couple of years in a row, you take it more seriously,” she said.