Cities' growth affects snow removal effort
After experiencing colossal growth in the past decade, Fargo-Moorhead isn't as small as it once was. City public works crews realized that all too well following the New Year's Eve double-punch blizzard. After such an extreme event as the area ha...
After experiencing colossal growth in the past decade, Fargo-Moorhead isn't as small as it once was.
City public works crews realized that all too well following the New Year's Eve double-punch blizzard.
After such an extreme event as the area had more than a week ago, some crews have had to work aggressively since to dig out streets and thoroughfares across the region.
West Fargo's 18 snowplow operators will finally resume regular eight-hour shifts Monday - about 10 days after the storms, according to the city's Public Works Department.
Those employees had been working 12-hour shifts around the clock to clear roads, widen lanes and dig out outer-lying neighborhoods that had been virtually inaccessible following the storms.
That picture is much the same across the metro area, where crews are amassing overtime pay in order to get the job done as quickly as possible.
But despite the growth in the past several years, Fargo, West Fargo and Moorhead said they have added only a few new employees for snowplowing operations.
Area public works directors said they are getting by with the equipment and staff they have - but how fast they can clear their cities will depend on the severity of winter weather conditions.
Ice, strong winds, heavy snowfall and massive drifts were contributing factors in delays crews experienced during and after the back-to-back blizzards.
"We have added a person in the last three years and some equipment, and it's pretty skinny," said Moorhead Operations Director Chad Martin. "We've been holding our own with what's there and working."
In West Fargo, the amount of lane miles in the city has more than doubled since 2000.
During that same period, the city added three pieces of snowplow equipment and three employees capable of operating them, said Public Works Director Barry Johnson.
Johnson said residents expect the city to be plowed out within eight to 12 hours after an average snowfall.
"So far, they're maintaining that timeframe," Johnson said, but added: "The more streets you get, it's going to become impossible."
When extreme weather hits the region, that timeframe will see delays, Johnson said.
He said the department routinely looks at whether it needs to add resources - but that's a decision for city leaders during the annual budget process, still months away.
West Fargo prides itself on keeping its property taxes low, so Johnson said the tradeoff becomes: higher taxes for faster services, or lower taxes with the possibility of delays in snow removal.
Readers can reach Forum reporter Kristen Daum at (701) 241-5541