(Crystal A. Proxmire, Feb. 11, 2014)
With six snow emergencies under their belts so far this winter, the Ferndale Department of Public Works is struggling to figure out how to meet demands for salt and how best to convince residents to move vehicles off the streets for them to plow.
Thus far the Ferndale Police have issued 589 parking violations and 114 abandoned vehicle citations, for a total of 703 snow-related tickets. They’ve towed 20 cars.
“Right now we need to educate our residents that we do mean business,” said Councilperson Mike Lennon during an update at Monday’s City Council meeting.
For the City, snow emergencies are a matter of safety. After growing accumulations of snow, police and fire officials determined 13 streets that needed to be completely cleared due to dangerous narrowing that could impede police and rescue services. Seven volunteers from Ferndale CERT went door to door with fliers warning people to move their vehicles by Feb. 10. Nine cars were towed and DPW workers cleared the streets of snow.
“In this case we really needed snow emergencies to work,” said City Manager April Lynch. “We’re going to continue to be as aggressive as we can.”
Overtime is adding up quickly and the salt supply is decreasing. Last year the DPW had 274 hours of overtime due to snow removal. This year so far they’ve racked up 1,052 hours so far.
Salt-wise the city normally uses 2,836 tons a year. This year they have already used 4,580 tons. With only 500 tons in reserve, city officials are looking for alternative sources, which are going to cost more than normal due to demand. They are also using brine in parking lots, which is a liquid with a high salt content.
Ferndale has had over 50 inches of snow this season, more than double last year’s total of 20 years, Lynch said. And there will be more to come. The financial impact is still unclear, but a mid-year adjustment to the DPW budget will be necessary in March.
Lynch said staff is working on policies and ordinance regulations that will make it more efficient to manage snow emergencies. “Past practice is we haven’t really done much with snow emergencies, so what happened is when we needed cooperation we had a hard time,” she said.
“When cars are parked in the street it increases our overtime,” she added.
Mayor Dave Coulter echoed the need for better snow emergency enforcement. “It’s important that folks understand that the DPW plowing our streets have a difficult job,” he said.
During a snow emergency, vehicles must not be parked on the street unless they have a special permit, which is available at the DPW building at 521 E. Cambourne.
NOTE: A previous version of this story said permits were available at City Hall. This is not the case. They are ONLY available at the DPW building.