New Snow Removal Plan No Snow Job, City Claims

“We got your drift,” a new mailing from the Public Works Department promises the people of Denver.

After last winter’s snow removal fiasco, city residents can only hope that claim comes true.The city’s lack of preparation sure didn’t help win the Battle of the Blizzard in late 2006 and early 2007. Frustration and anger grew as people felt trapped on unplowed streets. An additional civic sucker punch came to those ticketed for having their cars stuck on emergency snow routes and those ticketed for failing to shovel in front of businesses, apartments and homes. Thus, the arctic cold blossomed into a public relations nightmare.

It wasn’t just the 21-inch, one-day snow dump in December 2006.

It wasn’t just the subsequent cold weather that left snow and ice on the roads for the next couple of months.

It was the city’s apparent confusion and inability to respond to such a weather disaster that ticked people off.

Not this year, your friends at Public Works proclaim in a brochure that arrived in the mail over the Thanksgiving weekend at residences all over Denver.

“Snow removal is a big deal to us,” the brochure says. “After all, if you can’t go to work or to the store – or anywhere else – it’s bad news for Denver.”

This is why for the first time the city will dispatch “up to 110 4X4 plows to simultaneously clear residential, or neighborhood, streets” after any “major snow event.”

A major snow is event is when more than a foot of snow falls between Nov. 15 and March 15, “accompanied by freezing temperatures.”

What all neighborhoods are supposed to get, at approximately the same time, is a single lane plowed down the middle of every street.

“Denver’s never had a plan like this,” the brochure says, “and we know it will make a difference.”

Not much of a difference if the snow and ice pushed out of the middle of the roads form a barrier blocking cars parked along the curbs. But with proper engineering, the simultaneous residential road plowing could eliminate a major headache for getting to work, not to mention charges of favoritism that rich neighborhoods get plowed before poor ones.

A lack of additional parking restrictions on “Snow Routes” during big blizzards also portends blessed relief from the added expense and outrage of parking tickets. “Just follow the posted parking rules,” Public Works says, “even during the worst storms.”

Along with snow route tickets, another sore spot last winter were tickets given to business owners, apartment managers and homeowners who failed to clear walkways within the prescribed times.

The City Code says homeowners must clear their walkways within 24 hours after the snow stops falling. Business owners and apartment managers get four hours. New this year, according to the brochure, “the Public Works Manager may suspend these rules for up to 72 hours during a major snow event.”

Remember, folks, the brochure says may. It doesn’t say will. So in the midst of the wintry mess, stay tuned.

On the other hand, a little bit of consideration is better than none. So is a published snow removal plan in the hands of residents.

This winter, the people of Denver not only know what to expect, they now have a measure by which to hold everyone from the mayor on down accountable.

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Jim Spencer

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