FARGO — Public Works Director Ben Dow is recommending that the city of Fargo hold off on enforcing its new snow emergency policy for what could be a doozy of a snowstorm this Thursday, Oct. 22.
The new policy calls for residents to remove all vehicles from streets until they are plowed curb to curb. Those who don't comply could get a $100 ticket.
Mayor Tim Mahoney can declare an emergency during snowfalls of 4 inches or more, although Dow said it would likely only be called in the event of much larger storms where problems on streets start to pile up.
In a typical year, there are probably only three or four major storms where a city snow emergency would be put into effect, said Dow, who arrived at that estimate after meeting with meteorologists.
Of course, for any snowfall when plows are out, Dow said his department "absolutely" urges residents to move their vehicles off streets until they are plowed from curb to curb. It keeps driving lanes open, saves tax dollars, and allows city crews to cut hours off the time needed to plow, helping them clear the streets faster, he said.
The city public works department is still working on details of the new snow emergency policy, Dow said, adding that it takes preparation and planning if an emergency is declared.
As the city rolls out its new snow emergency policy, one of the big remaining questions is what residents will do if their homes or workplaces don't have a driveway or garage. Dow has been working with area schools, businesses and rental companies to find solutions.
A good share of the vehicles left on streets are in north Fargo and belong to students at North Dakota State University, according to Dow, who has worked with the school to send out notices to all students when a snow emergency is in place. NDSU also plans to help students avoid tickets by offering free parking in lots on campus during major snowstorms.
Dow said he has also been working with apartment building owners on possible solutions for residents who park on streets and had discussions with officials at the Fargodome and the Fargo Park District about using their parking lots during snow emergencies.
At Fargo's City Commission meeting this week, Dow also pointed out that a snow emergency declaration wouldn't affect the downtown business district, which includes the area from Second Avenue South to Seventh Avenue North and from University Drive to the Red River.
That's because crews working downtown focus on clearing off driving lanes immediately after the storm, but return the next two nights to haul all of the snow away from parking spaces.
Additionally, there is a year-round parking restriction in the business district where drivers must remove their vehicles from streets or avenues on alternating nights.
Residents may use downtown parking ramps that are free after 5 p.m. and until 8 a.m. and all day on weekends in snow emergencies, too.
Another problem for the new policy will be lining up police officers, who would likely follow city crews, to ticket vehicles that aren't moved. The system might have to involve putting additional officers on duty.
"It's about getting the proper coordination, enough time in advance so they can schedule extra officers to come in and enforce that," Dow said.
The ordinance does allow the city to impound vehicles that are not moved, but Dow does not expect that to be a common occurrence.
"We aren't going to put officers out there in front of our snowplows enforcing this," Dow said.
Yet another concern with the new policy is making sure residents are given notice of snow emergencies.
Dow hopes residents sign up for the new emergency notification system called CassClay Alerts, which sends a text message when the city declares an emergency.
Residents can sign up online at www.CassClayAlerts.gov or by calling FirstLink around the clock at 211 or 701-235-7335.