City crews say they’re ready, bring on the snow

Published 8:37 am Tuesday, November 23, 2004

By By SPIROS GALLOS / Niles Daily Star
NILES - With weather forecasts predicting a snowfall of two to three inches in the area for Wednesday, Niles Public Works officials say the department is ready for the winter plowing season.
Right now, six of the department's 11 plow trucks are outfitted and assigned for fall leaf pickup, which typically runs until early December, Public Works director Neil Coulston said.
In regards to when the first snowfall usually occurs in the Niles area, Coulston said he's seen it come as early as the first week of November and as late as mid-December.
Coulston budgeted more money for the snow plowing and salt removal program this year due to rising fuel costs. Coulston said the city would not cut back the plowing program.
But due to Coulston's foresight, the department is in good financial standing to handle the upcoming winter weather.
Coulston couldn't offer a projected budget for the snow plowing and salt removal program this year, but said in previous years, the city has spent about $235,000 on the program, with about $40,000 being spent on road salt.
In addition to putting salt on the ground, the department also puts down sand and calcium chloride. The calcium chloride is used to melt ice in extreme temperatures when road salt proves ineffective.
Should a heavy snowfall which requires the department to mobilize all the plow trucks occur, the trucks on leaf pickup duty would have to be converted for plowing and salting quickly.
Coulston said the conversion consists of removing the box from the back of the truck and attaching the plow apparatus to the front of the truck.
Typically, the department has been able to complete the leaf pickup program before plow season begins.
In the past, the department has suspended leaf pickup until spring if the snowfall remains constant through the month of December.
Coulston anticipates having the fall leaf pickup done before the department converts all the trucks for plow season.
In addition to the 11 plow trucks, the department has two front loaders which can be used for large plow jobs, and a small sidewalk plow.
Coulston stressed the small sidewalk plow would only be used for priority routes in the city.
The first priority routes which would be plowed by the city are designated school routes, which Niles Community Schools communicates to the city every year.
The second priority group of sidewalks which public works will plow are those around city property, such as Niles City Hall.
In the past, the department had two small sidewalk plows, and would make an effort to plow as many sidewalks as possible, Coulston said.
Due to the age of the current sidewalk plow and the cost to replace it, Coulston said the decision to plow priority routes only is in an effort to make the equipment last.
The current sidewalk plow was purchased in 1979 and Coulston said replacement plow would cost about $80,000.
Coulston urges residents in Niles to maintain the sidewalks in front of their homes as per the city ordinance which requires residents to keep their sidewalk in proper working order.
When asked if the late snowfall has had an affect on the program's budget, Coulston said not really, because he doesn't typically budget for much snow removal in November.
Overall, Coulston seems confident the Public Works Department is ready for the coming plow season.