HELENA – City of Helena officials believe this winter has been a good test of the new snow removal plan, stating so far they are seeing a lot of success compared to last year.
“Anyone that’s driven a snow route should have noticed the dramatic difference from last year to this year. They’re a lot wider and a lot easier to navigate,” said David Knoepke, Streets, fleet and traffic superintendent.
Knoepke credits the snow route towing efforts in part to the improved driving conditions on emergency streets.
The city ordinance says vehicles parked on snow emergency routes when two inches or more of snow is predicted may be towed and stored at the owner’s expense.
It costs the city $165.00 for each vehicle towed and $85.00 for a “gone on arrival” fee if the vehicle has already moved.
“We have towed 40 cars, vehicles, boats or trailers in total and I would say we probably called in for twice that,” said Knoepke.
In a lot of instances people have been moving their cars once they see the tow truck or snow plow.
“We’ve had a lot on instances where they see the plow trucks come into their neighborhoods, they run and call out all their neighbors and they get the cars off the streets– even in non-emergency snow areas. The cars get off it, we can plow it and the parking areas it just makes life easier for everyone so we just want to say thank you to the citizens of Helena,” said Knoepke.
The recent snow storms have been challenging for the city’s efforts given the volume of snow fell in a short amount of time.
“The snow was coming down so fast it didn’t always look plowed,” explained Knoepke. “We had drivers that would sand a snow route and come back the other direction and couldn’t tell it had been sanded because of the snow coming down.”
There are snow removal operations happening in some neighborhoods, but when it’s below zero degrees Fahrenheit, cutting the snow can result in large ice chunks. Because of that, the city is going to wait until conditions are more favorable before beginning snow removal on the compacted streets.
Knoepke added his department has already been learning a lot from the new snow plan.
“The main thing is to get out in front of the storm,” said Knoepke. “Get the drivers out there sooner rather than later, and just keep moving through the storm.”
Officials say they always welcome constructive feedback from the public and will be presenting a “lessons learned” public meeting later this year.
-Reported by John Riley/MTN News