You Paid for It: Snow Removal

By Millaine Wells, Local 5 News

Published 02/19 2014 01:52PM

Updated 02/19 2014 07:20PM

(WFRV) - This winter the sounds of plows outside our windows have become the norm.

With winter snow totals inching higher every week public works departments are spending a lot of money and a lot of time clearing roads.

"From the week before thanksgiving until even today we have been out every week plowing snow" says Robert Bousley, Brown County Public Works Operations Manager.

More than 1,500 Wisconsin employees are licensed to operate a county snowplow. This year, every single one of them has been busy.

"The actual preparation starts in the fall with training. We put a lot of guys through a lot of things, we get the equipment serviced and ready to go" explains Al Geurts, Outagamie County Highway Commissioner.

"There has been a lot of turnover with retirements, and things of that nature. We have several drivers that have 30-40 years experience and we have some that have only months of experience" says Tony Fietzer, Street Superintendent for the City of Green Bay.

In Outagamie county aloe crews plow and salt 1300 miles of road every time is snows.

"That will almost get you to the Florida state line" says Geurts with a laugh.

Crews get by on minimal sleep.

"If there is a storm on the horizon we will look at what time it is projected to hit so we can stagger our crews to either come in early, or keep them at home as long as possible"  Bousley says.

Communities are divided into specific routes, so drivers are familiar with the roads. Main arteries get the most attention.

According to Fietzer, "With three different hospitals in the city are the regional area for medical needs so we have ambulances from all over northeast Wisconsin coming and we need to provide that safe travel"  

Green Bay has the ability to monitor several bridge cameras and soon they will take it a step further.

They are working to tap into cameras mounted on dozens of intersections around town.

"Part of the battle is knowing when is it going to stop enough for us to plow" Fietzer says.

In an active show year like this plowing is only half the job. City crews need to remove the high snow banks before they become a danger to drivers.

"Counties may have ditches to put it in which do not fill up very fast. Where we have terraces that become very full" Fietzer explains.

Snow is piled at one of several city owned properties where it is simply allowed to melt in the spring.

But, long after the piles are gone the financial impact remains for taxpayers.

"Normally we spend about $300,000 plowing county highways this time of year. We spent double that in both December and January . We had expenses right around $600,000 each of those past two months" Geurts say. 

It is a job with no set hours and often no thanks.

"Understand that as frustrating as it is to have to shovel your driveway because a snowplow driver put snow there, trust us that it is not intentional We do not get joy out of putting it there, but ultimately with the angles of the plows that is where it falls off" Fietzer says.  

Tune in tomorrow night at 6:00 pm on Local 5. Millaine Wells will have part two of this series.

From overtime, to purchasing piles of salt we will take an in depth look at how local budgets are doing with sky high piles of snow.

For more information on how plowing crews determine which roads to clear first click here.

There is also additional information, including snowplow safety tips here from the Department of Transportation.


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