After nearly a week of temperatures hovering around zero degrees, the city of Ann Arbor is recovering.

However, the city is more equipped to handle the frigid temperatures and above average snowfalls than it might have seemed during the wintry trip back to Ann Arbor after break.

Robert Kellar, the city’s communications specialist for public services, said that the damages done to the roads and property were minor, and the extended below-freezing temperatures were not that out of the ordinary for this time of year.

“This is not totally unusual for this area,” Kellar said. “There is the normal wear and tear on the roads because plowing is not a frictionless process, and you have the occasional mailbox that is a victim.”

Keller added that the extreme weather may cause a few more water line breaks than usual.

However, the lack of damages is perhaps due to the system Ann Arbor currently has in place to deal with inclement winter weather. Like most cities, Ann Arbor has a fleet of salt trucks and plows that it sends out on specific routes to deal with winter weather.

The vehicles are sent out on two shifts: one lasting from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m., and one lasting from 6 a.m. to 2 p.m. During heavier snowfalls, the service vehicles will take two 12-hour shifts.

Plow crews’ first priority is snow removal on major streets that are considered essential routes for emergency vehicles and traffic. Only second to that are residential roads. The city also spreads a de-icing agent, composed of both sand and salt, across roughly 98 miles of roadway.

However, the city is not responsible for clearing most sidewalks. Rather, it is the duty of residents and business owners to clear sidewalks around their property. City ordinance states that residents have 24 hours to clear the sidewalks after a snowfall of greater than 1 inch.

Kellar said enforcement of the sidewalk regulations is difficult because the city does not have workers to monitor sidewalks.

“It requires public participation to enforce,” Kellar said. “We ask people to either call us or go online … to help fix that.”

He added that the city has developed a social media presence and does a sufficient job responding and listening to citizens via online platforms.

The city does not pay for snow removal and street maintenance from property proceeds, but instead uses state funding to pay for the programs. Kellar noted this common misconception, and said since state funding has not increased since 1997, the city has been held back from increasing its capacity to remove snow.

“We get a lot of people asking us: ‘Why don’t you buy more snow plows or get more people on the roads?’ ” Kellar said. “Well, that’s because we get the money from the state to pay for that.”

Councilwoman Sabra Briere (D–Ward 1) said the cleanup process is much better than it was just five years ago, and credited the new City Administrator Steve Powers as well as a much more “assertive” sidewalk process as the primary agents of change.

“I think having a city administrator from Marquette, where they really know how to deal with snow, has been a real plus for us and the community,” Briere said. “I also think the fact that the city administrator is now talking about looking at how we did and improving on it for next winter is also a real plus.”

Briere also noted the contrast in public opinion between when she first began her tenure on city council and now.

“I got constant complaints about how days after a snowfall somebody’s neighborhood would not have been plowed,” Briere said. “People now are impatient because their neighborhood hasn’t been plowed in five hours.”

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published.