City of Williams reworks snow plow plan just in time for next storm

how snow is plowed and removed to depend on location

A van rests off the slick roadway on Route 66. Wendy Howell/WGCN

A van rests off the slick roadway on Route 66. Wendy Howell/WGCN

WILLIAMS, Ariz. - Where snow should be plowed in Williams - to the side of the street or in berms down the middle - was discussed during a special meeting of community members and city staff Jan. 19.

Representatives from the Williams Police Department, Williams Fire Department, Williams Unified School District and city staff analyzed the new plowing methods used by city workers during the Jan. 4 - 8 winter storm.

City employees and council members received numerous complaints regarding the new plowing method.

In the past, city workers moved snow on the 44 miles of city streets by plowing the snow into a berm in the middle of the street and removing it by dump truck. During the Jan. 4 - 8 snow event, the city plowed the snow to the sides of the street and in the process buried numerous cars, driveways and sidewalks.

"We're going to try to do better," said city councilman Frank McNelly. "We're working on it."

According to Public Works Director Kyle Christiansen, despite the complaints staff are not abandoning their attempt to save the city money with the new plowing methods. City employees determined that the city saved approximately $15,000 by not creating windrows and hauling the snow by dump truck.

"We estimated that it would have taken us three weeks to haul the snow from the last storm," Christiansen said. "That figure includes costs for fuel, equipment and man power."

The committee discussed the effect of the new plowing methods on city emergency crews, schools, residents and businesses and are prioritizing areas that need more work during storms. Christiansen said they discussed which areas of town were impacted the most and came up with a list of some changes.

"It's being reworked," Christiansen said. "It really is going to depend on what kind of storm we get. We're trying to prioritize areas that need to be picked up. The main commuter areas and bus routes are the priority right now."

According to Police Chief Herman Nixon, who was part of the committee, both ways of plowing cause problems.

"Snow is an issue whether they plow it to the middle or plow it to the sides," Nixon said. "It really depends on the size of the storm. Snow is snow, it doesn't matter where it's at. People have accidents, they get stuck."

Nixon said one advantage to plowing to the sides is that it opens up the lane and there is more visibility.

"When the snow is in the middle, people on Route 66 think it's a 2-way street and often drive in the wrong direction," he said.

Nixon said the committee gave their input to Christiansen and decided to leave the decision making to the Public Works Department.

"We're taking into consideration certain churches on the corners that end up with a lot of snow," Christiansen. "We're also looking at the sidewalks where kids walk to school, emergency services, fire hydrants, and the business district."

Christiansen said part of the problem with the heavy storms is that residents are not following the city ordinances.

During snow removal, residents and visitors are not allowed to park on any public street. If a vehicle is parked on the road the police may tow the vehicle.

Residents and business owners are also required to shovel their sidewalks following a storm.

"We really need residents to do their part too," Christiansen said. "We have ordinances. If you decide not to follow ordinances then it causes more problems for the plows."

City manager Brandon Buchanan said he applauds the public works department for trying a new method.

"This one may not have gone exactly right, but this shouldn't discourage us from trying new things," Buchanan said. "That is so important."

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