A snowblower rented for Los Alamos County Traffic and Streets Division loads snow into a truck Tuesday. Courtesy photo
BY MAIRE O’NEILL
Los Alamos County Manager Harry Burgess gave County Councilors an update on the snow removal situation caused by a snowstorm New Year’s Day which has left the County struggling to clear streets.
“This was an historic event. It’s been some 30 plus years since we’ve had anything like this storm and I will mention that it has overwhelmed our resources in personnel and equipment but also in our budgetary resources. We budget for clean-up in any given year but we anticipated a normal type of season and this one has been anything but normal,” Burgess said.
He told Councilors that the County received a piece of rental equipment Tuesday that should do a great job of removing a lot of the snow as crews try to truck it out of a lot of places.
“We can only push it so far and then the big piles occupy 10 of the parking spaces in some situations. We have been moving that material using front loaders but now we have a blower that is mounted to a loader,” he said, adding that crews did a lot of work out on North Mesa Tuesday.
“That all being said, we are calculating our costs at this time and I anticipate that there will be a need for some sort of budgetary adjustment. We are not anticipating trying to move every flake of snow and we have had a lot of comments about our snow removing methods, some desiring a lot more, some thanking us. There will always be a continuing desire for more removal.” Burgess said.
He said the County has limited resources so preparation is being made for the next storms.
“There are some four storms that are expected to hit us in the next week and a half. We’re trying to remove all the snow that we can so that we can push additional snow into those areas because with the existing ice walls as it is right now we would only be maintaining a smaller roadway,” Burgess said. “We will continue our efforts to remove any and all snow from the roadways and sidewalks, however just recognize that we’ve had our personnel extended to some limits so far. We gave them a break on Saturday so that they could come back on the predicted storm Sunday.”
Burgess said it the extra expenditure is not uncommon with cyclical-type things such as the snowstorm.
“We don’t expect a large expenditure every year but try to address it on an individual basis. Overall things have been going well. We’ve received some additional pieces of equipment, we’ve got contractors assisting our normal personnel and they have been working very hard,” he said. “Please bear with us and any of the citizens that might have the need for some further clearing on their streets. We’re still getting there, it’s just that they’re addressing the entire County and it does take some time to get there. Right now, we’re seven days out. It’s just amazing to see the amount of snow that’s still in our County based on that prior storm.”
Newly-elected Council Chair Sara Scott said she would just like to say hats off to all the folks who have worked so very, very hard.
“It’s clear to me and many folks in town that a lot of people have worked hard, long hours to do what they’ve done. Clearly there’s more to be done. I liked your idea of down the line, to take a look back and see what really worked well and what we might do in the future,” Scott said.
Councilor James Robinson said he wanted to join Scott in thanking the County, Los Alamos National Laboratory and even fellow residents in removing this snow.
“The last time we received this much snow I wasn’t alive yet. So this is definitely something that I thoroughly enjoyed watching accumulate in my back yard but also, not being able to get out of my house for two days I can understand the frustration but I really want to thank everyone’s patience with the County and with the Lab who are trying to make sure our roads are safe,” he said, adding that he really hopes the County continues to get snow because he wants more water.
Los Alamos resident Jose Carreno speaking under public comment said he wanted to recognize Traffic and Streets Division Manager Dan Erickson and his folks for the job they did with the snow removal.
“There were some naysayers but overall they did a magnificent job. I’ve been before Council – this will be my fourth year in a row – prior to the budget season where I’ve documented the fact that there are fewer workers since five years ago and more managers and middle managers. Maybe that’s part of the reason why there was some delay and maybe the snow removal wasn’t as quick as it could have been,” Carreno said. “This is an ongoing thing that hasn’t been dealt with yet and I hope that the new Council – I would be glad to provide the documentation that I’ve got and have given to the previous councilors on the bench – but maybe it’s time to really get serious about this.”
Meanwhile, County officials issued a press release earlier this week reminding residents that when a snow event is greater than six inches, the top priority is to keep major arterials and collector streets plowed before moving on to residential streets as outlined in the Los Alamos County Snow & Ice Control Plan.
“The County has many narrow residential streets which makes plowing efforts difficult since there is physically no space to put the snow. This issue is exacerbated by the parking of vehicles on one or both sides of the street. Crews have made at least one pass on all residential streets; however, many requests have been received for additional plowing. Crews will widen streets as resources allow, but this effort will likely cause more windrows next to parked vehicles, driveways and parking spaces. With the previous in mind, County and contract crews are now focusing on removal operations on the narrower residential streets throughout the County using motor graders, loaders, snow blowers and dump trucks,” the release states.
The County release says it is anticipated that this effort “will continue around the clock until snow has been removed or warmer temperatures allow for ample snow storage in place”.
“At this time the County asks residents for their help by moving vehicles parked on the street when the snow removal operation commences in their neighborhood. It is also requested that residents exercise caution and patience around snow removal operations. This will help speed up the removal efforts and allow crews to service more streets,” the County says.