Spearfish to modify snow removal operations

October 5, 2018

SPEARFISH — The city of Spearfish is planning to make some changes regarding snow removal going into the coming snow season.

“There’s a few differences. Our main goal for this snow season is to be more efficient and to do more in-house to save tax dollars,” Streets/Solid Waste Foreman Tyler Fortin said Monday, giving a brief overview of the plan to the Spearfish City Council. He said that the previous week, a meeting took place with all city employees involved with snow removal, as well as local contractors the city uses for snow removal, to discuss the changes.

With that said, Fortin described that there’s going to be some differences and that the city departments are ready to see what they can do. A few of the biggest changes are relying less on contractors and doing more in-house with city staff, Fortin said. He explained that in the past year, when hauling snow after a snowstorm, there might be 20 dump trucks hired out to haul snow, at an average of $100 per hour. With the goal of saving money, the number of trucks will decrease. An exact number has not yet been decided, but Fortin provided the example of around five trucks per storm would be used to haul snow. The city has three of its own: One from the wastewater treatment plant, as well as two from the streets department.

Fortin said he didn’t have any intentions of having 20 trucks lined up in the neighborhood to haul snow, waiting in line for most of the time.

“It’s not as effective, as far as I’m concerned,” he said.

The city has already exceeded the amount budgeted for snow removal for 2018, due to snow events that occurred earlier in the year.

Assistant Finance Officer Michelle DeNeui provided the data Tuesday. For 2018, $318,326 was budgeted, and as of Tuesday, $504,794 has been expended this year – a difference of $186,468 – which will require a budget supplement later in the year.

According to the finance office, in 2017, the final amended budget allotted $422,277 for snow removal, with $350,573 expended. In 2016, $346,553 was budgeted, with $334,915 expended.

Fortin explained Monday that the city has hired out various areas of the city to contractors for snow removal in previous years. This year, the city will perform snow removal in those area, including Rolling Hills subdivision, Tumbleweed Trail, McGuigan Ranch Addition, and Top Shelf development. Contractors would continue to perform snow removal in Mountain Shadow Estates, The Reserve on Higgins Creek, and Fairgrounds Loop.

“We will need to bring in contractors as needed during heavy snow events in certain situations, such as back-to-back storms,” Fortin said. “Our goal is to do as much in-house, more and more every year, but (when) it comes down to something like (a winter storm) Atlas, and there’s no way around contractors, I don’t think, not yet, anyways, with the amount of employees that we currently have.”

“With this said, this is a big change that the public is going to have to work with us. … it’s going to take longer to get everything completely cleared, between clearing the streets, clearing the windrows in the driveways, and getting everything hauled off …” Fortin added. “We’re looking at roughly, up to three days of complete, complete product.”

He compared that to last year, when it took about 15 hours to get just about everything cleared — but he added that included the $100 per hour for multiple, contracted dump trucks.

“I don’t’ think that’s very cost-effective,” he said.

In years past, the streets, parks, and water and sewer department employees have made up the snow removal crews, and Fortin said that this year, all street department employees, all parks department employees, one to two mechanics, depending on the availability and the storm, one wastewater treatment plant employee, two water/sewer employees, and up to three government buildings employees would be involved with snow removal.

“That’s what we’re looking at this year,” Fortin said in conclusion. “Everything’s a trial and error, and hopefully we can be efficient as we can and save some tax dollars.”

Mayor Dana Boke touched on how the city has already exceeded the snow removal budget for the year and thanked Fortin and the departments for looking into ways the city could save going forward.

“It was a rough year,” she said.

Councilman John Lee voiced his appreciation to staff for taking the initiative to cut down on tax dollars and thinking outside the box to come up with cost-cutting measures.

“I want to applaud you for coming up with those ideas to help us out,” he said.

The city’s snow information and advisory guide, which includes snow removal priority routes, is available at cityofspearfish.com/document_center/PublicWorks/Snow_Guide.pdf.

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