MOORHEAD — Moorhead Public Works Director Steve Moore told the City Council on Monday night, Oct. 28, he was "vehemently" opposed to the city buying "snow gates" to keep the city's estimated 12,000 driveways clear during plowing.
"It's just not affordable," he said.
Moore was at a gathering of regional public works employees last week and said he learned from Bismarck, which decided to go with that type of snow removal, that they had to hire eight more employees to run equipment.
On top of that, he said the equipment costs would be astronomical. The gates are attached to motor graders and front-end loaders with operators dropping the gates when approaching driveways or crossing streets.
Moore, who gave the council a snow and ice control plan for this winter, said he learned from Bismarck that the gates aren't effective with a snowfall of 4 inches or more and that it took the city 36 hours to clean streets with the new gates, which involves lifting the snow plow at each driveway.
He said Bismarck was also having to make several more passes down each street and it would be almost impossible to use in Moorhead's 240 cul-de-sacs because the driveways are so close.
Fargo is also in the process of studying the possibility of adding snow gate equipment. Moore said Fargo Public Works Director Ben Dow would share that information with Moorhead.
Councilwoman Deb White said she was concerned about the elderly and those with mobility issues being able to clear driveways during heavy snowfalls. She suggested creating a citywide list of volunteers who could help those people.
"It wouldn't fix everything, but it could help," she said.
Mayor Johnathan Judd added, "We have to remember we are all in this together." He said neighbors could help out each other when driveways are plugged.
Moore, who touched on other subjects related to snow removal and ice control, said the goal is to have all streets cleared, depending on the amount of snow, within 10 hours to 14 hours after the snowfall ends. He said public works ideally starts clearing snow at about midnight to get most residential streets open by the morning commute.
He said his crew of 14 available drivers, all of whom are returning from last year, have to plow about 500 "lane miles" of streets in the city, of which 85% are asphalt roadways. Moore said he added another crew chief this year to help improve service.
The city also has a crew of 5 employees who clear the city's 46 miles of bike paths and public sidewalks. They try to clear bike paths within 24 hours after a snowfall, he said.
The city's equipment fleet for the streets includes three snowplows and three spares, four snowplows equipped with salt, brine and sand equipment, three motor graders, three pay loaders for cul-de-sacs and three huge snowblowers.
There's also a 3,000-gallon anti-icing truck and another with a 500-gallon tank.
The pre-treatment brine used in the trucks works best in the early and late parts of winter, he said.
Also used for ice control is salt, which is best when the pavement temperature is 15 degrees or above. Moore said sand, which is often scattered anyway after 10 to 15 cars drive over it, isn't effective in melting ice.
With equipment calibration changes last year, his crews saved about 350 tons of salt compared to a year earlier and, at about $100 per ton, that saved a lot of money. Salt prices currently are at about $115 a ton and will go up to $135 by Jan. 1 when demand is higher. He said they can save salt over the summer if it's a good winter.
The city uses about 1,000 tons of salt each winter, he said.
Moore said ice control isn't used on residential streets because of low traffic volume, and the city doesn't clear private driveways and sidewalks. He also said plows won't return to a street if a car is left there until daily maintenance routes are made.