ALPENA - The Alpena Department of Public Works is doing its best to remove the snow piles that have built up around the city this winter, but it has been a slow process and will continue to be so.
Due to a tight budget and an equipment breakdown, snow removal in the city, especially downtown where there are banks on the curbs in some areas.
City Engineer Rich Sullenger said the city has a policy regarding snow removal that requires it to begin removal operations when piles reach 20 inches. He said that amount has been exceeded and the removal process has begun. Sullenger said icy roads, combined with more snow, has forced the road crews to focus on street maintenance instead.
"Obviously when we start snow removal our priorities have to be to the state trunkline and major streets before we target snow removal downtown," Sullenger said. "For the downtown it is a two night task with a full crew, and if there is another snow event we have to respond to the streets.
"We did begin the process downtown and then our snowblower that mounts on the front of the loader broke down and it took some repairs to get it up and operating again. It happened when we were only about an hour into the project, so that set us back as well."
As of now the city has designated a single worker to the overnight shift and he is slowly working each night removing snow from in front of downtown businesses when he is not needed salting or plowing. Sullenger said each time snow removal is required downtown, the street fund takes a big hit.
"There is about a $10,000 to $12,000 cost to have the downtown done when you figure in employee overtime, fuel and equipment," Sullenger said. "It is something we don't do at the drop of a hat. Downtown is a priority, but there are other higher priorities that we have to take care of first. Right now we are picking away at it. One employee can't do a whole lot in one night."
Sullenger said some business owners take care of their own snow removal, while others take advantage of offers via the Alpena Downtown Development Authority.
He said the snow that is removed from the sides of city streets is transported to its property on US-23 North, where it is dumped and sits until it thaws away in the spring. He said the city is reimbursed for the maintenance it does to the state roads, but some years it doesn't totally cover the cost of the work being done. Sullenger said he is sure there will be more snow removal work that will be needed after other snow events take place this winter.
"If we get hit with 18 inches from a storm, we'll once again have to target coming in and doing a removal," Sullenger said. "It is not a cheap venture but when it needs to be done we will do it. It takes a while and it won't be done overnight, but if we need to do it, we will."
Steve Schulwitz can be reached via email at email@example.com or by phone at 358-5689. Follow Steve on Twitter ss_alpenanews. Read his blog, Upon Further Review ... at www.thealpenanews.com.