Bay City hopes to shine at clearing snow from streets

Andrew Dodson
Bay City Times

Bay City — Bay City officials are calling for a more aggressive approach to plowing snow from all city streets after a storm.

That’ll mean pretreating all intersections with salt, plowing from curb to curb and fast cleanup after a storm. The plan will hinge on getting vehicles off the streets so crews can do their work.

“I want our city to become a model when it comes to snow removal,” City Manager Rick Finn said. “We’re committed to improving services and this is a big piece of that.”

The Bay City Commission learned about the new approach last week when Public Works Director Bill Bohlen broke down the program and previewed ordinance amendments that the commission is expected to vote on in the coming months.

In the past, cars left on the street have prevented city plow crews from clearing snow efficiently and effectively, officials said.

The city has provisions in place to ticket those motorists or even tow their cars. According to the city’s code of ordinances, from Nov. 15 through March 31, overnight parking is allowed only on the odd-numbered side of the street on odd-numbered days and vice-versa for even-numbered days during a snow event.

In 2013-2014, the city budgeted $8,196 winter maintenance operations on local streets. That amount increased to $25,427 in the 2014-2015 fiscal year and was adopted at $38,131 in the current fiscal year. Salaries were also increased for winter maintenance.

That extra money is going to allow for six full, curb-to-curb plows on local streets when 3 inches of snow — it was 4 inches — accumulates. That budget also includes more frequent salting on those streets, Bohlen said.

Road crews got a test run of the more aggressive approach before the New Year when several inches of snow, sleet and freezing rain pounded Bay County and most of the state. Bohlen’s crew had all local streets plowed within 24 hours of the storm’s end.

Cleaning streets that quickly in the future hinges on cars not being parked on roads during snowstorms, Bohlen said.

Before residents would see parking tickets on their hoods or their cars towed altogether, the city plans to roll out a big campaign educating people about complying with local snowplowing ordinances. That would happen sometime next fall, Bohlen said.

“I don’t anticipate any towing of vehicles this winter,” Bohlen said.

Cars left in the road after the first snow event under the new program would receive a warning before a ticket is issued.

In the case of major snowstorms, where more than 12 inches of snow falls, Finn said he would look to use city parking lots, allowing people to park there while streets are being plowed.

“It’s an approach I’ve used in other cities,” he said. “People can park there for the entire snow event, maybe have someone drop them off or pick them up, all free of charge.”

Ray Armstrong, who lives on the city’s east side, said he was impressed with the city’s plowing following the last big storm on Dec. 28 and is in favor of the city being more aggressive getting cars off the road.

“My biggest complaint has always been the cars on the road, because the snow just ends up staying on the road,” he said. “If people don’t fear keeping their cars in the streets, they’re not going to worry about a sticker on their window.”

City officials are also going to introduce an ordinance that would allow the city manager to call for a snow emergency when the weather forecast calls for a snowstorm of 6 inches or more. There isn’t any type of similar ordinance on the books.

“By issuing a snow emergency, we can get the word out and work quicker with the community to get cars off the streets,” Bohlen said.