Sunday, November 27, 2011

Snow Gates - Are They Worth It?

It is that time of year when everyone seems to have an opinion on the use of snow gates. I have never been a supporter of snow gates. It has always seemed to me to be a stupid idea. This idea that government must take care of every little need and want of its citizens is what got us to the federal deficit today.

I picture those big  motor graders going down residential streets having to lift and lower that special equipment every so many feet to accommodate all those driveways. Really, do we have to have an argument about shoveling out one's driveway? Sure, it is a pain in the you know what, but Winter is a pain in the you know what. Shoveling snow off sidewalks and at the end of the driveway is a task that homeowners must do each Winter in South Dakota. If the City is going to do our driveways, maybe they should take care of our sidewalks too. Driveways aren't city streets, nor are sidewalks. Same, same.  Sure it would be nice to have the city take care of my driveway but is it a necessity?

How many single family houses and driveways are there in this city? A lot. How many miles of streets are there in the city?  There are approximately 780 miles of streets maintained by the City. The number of miles grows every year at about 14 miles per year on the average per the city's website.  All I know is that I want my residential street plowed right away and not two or three days after more than 2 inches has fallen from the sky. I also want it plowed curb to curb so I can still travel down the street without going through an obstacle course with all the parked cars on the street. 125 people showed up for a town hall meeting on snow gates and people loved them. The thing is, that test was an ideal situation. Those test areas got preferential and immediate treatment. Two very isolated tests versus the entire city - a little different scenario.

The 2010-2011 Snow Gate Analysis conducted by Public Works has some interesting information regarding the testing of snow gates that occurred from October 2010 through March 2011:
  • Total operational time increased 23% with the use of snow gates.
  • Fuel consumption increased 31% with the use of snow gates.
  • Annual plowing cost impact increased 33% with the use of snow gates.
  • Streets are narrower using snow gates - street width was reduced by 7 feet limiting on-street parking, and increased snow in front of mailboxes and fire hydrants for residents to remove.
  • Storm Water Inlets are covered with the use of snow gates.
  • Snow accumulation of greater than 30 inches poses safety issues and public concerns were expressed at a higher level.
The operational challenges for the Street Division of Public Works were:
  • Snow gates need to be removed for snow pick up, cutting ice, pulling sidewalks, and opening storm water inlets.
  • Removing or installing snow gates takes an extra 45 minutes each time.
  • For snowfalls of five inches or greater, snow gates were not as effective.
  • Wider streets take two passes - can't use a sander plow.
  • Wet snow doesn't clear the moldboard - need to backup.
The Street Division is going to do another test this season and they are going to use a different manufacturer of snow gates. They are also going to use private contractors this go around. Who knows, maybe this other manufacturer makes a better piece of equipment. We will see.

People in support of snow gates say it is a quality of life issue. People in support of snow gates say they already pay for the public service of plowing streets. People who support snow gates don't want to have to shovel out their driveways. I say fine, just accept the fact that it is going to cost more money, make your streets narrower, and it will take a little longer to plow the snow off of all the city streets. The extra costs and the operational challenges are worthy of consideration by the city council.

I still say they are not worth it. I don't want narrower streets. I don't want to wait longer to get my street plowed. I don't want to earmark more money to the millions already earmarked for snow removal. I want that money to go to fixing and maintaining the streets. A quality of life issue for me is well maintained city streets. A quality of life issue for me is no snow.  But then I chose to live in South Dakota, not Florida or California.

Don't send me ugly comments just because I don't agree with all of you who want snow gates. Personally, I think the City Council will cave and vote yes on the snow gates. Then everyone can start complaining that the city is not getting the streets plowed fast enough and too much money has to be spent on snow removal.  At least everyone will be happy that their personal driveways are taken care of and they can stay in the house, sit in their chair and watch TV.

After all, that is what government is for -  to take care of our every wish and desire, right? When they take care of things we should take care of ourselves, don't complain about your taxes.

Driveways are not streets.  Driveways and sidewalks are personal responsibilities. Snow gates are a want, not a need.


    1. Okay, I will keep my comment as 'un-ugly' as possible.

      First off, if we have millions for monkey crappers, bunny-hills (Ironically that we subsidize to make snow) Jr. Football fields and Events Centers we have money for snowgates something that provides service to EVERY citizen.

      Secondly, the test results last year are moot for a number of reasons, but the main reason is that they used an inferior product. The Henke snowgate (that I think they ordered late this year on purpose) is the best in the biz, and it will garner much better results.

      Thirdly, I don't have a problem with shoveling out MY DRIVEWAY. The end of the drive technically is in the boulevard and technically is city property, so TECHNICALLY it is their responsibility. People are not asking the city to come over and shovel their entire driveway, they are basically telling the city to stop leaving all that crap at the end of our driveways. If we are paying for a service, shouldn't it be done right? We wouldn't expect anything different from any other service provider?

    2. Semantics! It's just the end of your driveway but still your driveway and not the street. In a perfect world I'd like snow gates too but reality doesn't support them nor does the add'l cost and the add'l time it will take to plow. Just get the damn streets plowed and I will take care of the end of my own drive way. Sorry, but we do not have extra money for snow gates and they won't work for big snow falls anyway.

    3. If you don't like plowing out the end of your driveway, may I suggest that you either move to a warmer climate, hire someone else to do it, or live in an association. South DaCola's assertion that EVERYONE benefits from snow gates is untrue. I live in an association which my dues go to pay for my snow removal. I also pay taxes just like him, but I won't personally benefit from snow gates because I choose to live in an association. My life is pretty easy because of MY choice. Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow!

    4. Your 'Association' pays someone to remove snow from your driveway? Right? If they no longer have to pay someone to do that that means you pay less in association fees? Right? So you do benefit.

      Sorry, weak argument.

      I often shake my head at the the 'F'You, I got mine' attitude. Because, gosh darn it, I can afford someone to do my dirty work, why can't you? It isn't that simple. We pay taxes so that we all can afford the same benefits, rich, poor, or cheapskate (I am in the cheapskate category). This isn't about whether or not I own an icepick and can do it myself, this about providing customer service to citizens for the taxes we pay.

      Every time a monkey takes a crap at the zoo, does that benefit you? Nope. But yah pay for it. Every time a kid from Montrose, SD scores a touchdown at the Jr. Football fields, does that benefit you? Nope. But yah pay for it. Every time a snowgate doesn't leave snow at the end of your driveway, does that benefit you? The taxpayer? Hell yah! And that is how the system is supposed to work, unless of course you think all of our money should go to monkeys?

      This isn't rocket science folks. You pay to have the streets cleaned. Clean them properly!

    5. Actually, Mr. Know-It-All, my association's streets are private and the city doesn't plow them. So, your logic, once again, doesn't work. Try again. I actually hope they implement the snow gates city wide. We'll then hear everyone whining that their street isn't plowed soon enough. We'll see how everyone likes them then.
      BTW, I could care less about monkeys, but I'm glad that we have a nice zoo. My nieces and nephews sure enjoy it. Your generalizations and assumptions about my and everyone else's beliefs are getting old.

    6. A petition drive and a public vote will clear up any question about what SF citizens think of snow gates.

    7. The key points to this issue are the operational costs and challenges outlined in the report. Are they worth it to fund a want instead of a need? I hope the City Council can stay on point and keep the emotions out of their decision making. Trying to make one vocal group of people happy is not always good public policy.

    8. This is truly a small issue. We would all do better to spend our time contemplating larger issues. It either will or won't work, we'll know in a few years and then it will be over. Move on.

    9. @ Anonymous 8:32 am: Yea, let's move on to contemplate larger issues like moving City Council meetings from Monday meetings to Tuesday meetings.

    10. I actually like the idea of having Council Meetings on Tuesdays. Why not? But, it should not consume us. Move on.

    11. Morning Jack is right. The biggest disappointment in the Council form of government is that they have been consumed by trivial matters. They have not figured out what there job is. So, they flounder.

    12. Gee, I never thought of expecting Virginia Beach to rake fall leaves from my driveway and right of way. I think I'll make some calls to Council members

    13. Cheryl, there is no amount of leaves that is comparable to a four foot windrow of snow and ice. Particularly to a 85 year old widow. Stay in Virginia Beach.

    14. Hmmm - I wonder why they want to move meetings from Monday to Tuesday? So it is easier for people such as Rolfing and Entenman that want to take longer weekend vacations and have a track record (specifically Rolfing) of missing meetings? For gosh sakes people, you run for these seats, you beat out other people that could give 2 shits of when the meeting is - they would be there, and this is what you signed up for. Get responsoble and get your arses to these meetings - especially when you ok'd the dicatator, I mean the Mayor, to bond the shit out of us for the next 22 years.

      As far as snowgates - I don't know that I care either way. It's gonna snow and it's gonna snow a lot. I'll be plowing/shoveling my driveway either way.

    15. snowgates would be fine, IF we were accept the fact it will take much longer to clear the streets, maybe four or five days as opposed to the two or three it takes now..... i am sure the city would want/or have to raise our "street maintenance" assessment or general taxes to pay for the additional equipment and operational costs associated with cleaning the snow from the "end of our driveways." don't need a public vote on this. sometimes the majority are wrong, and their needs/wants/greed cost all of us money...

      don't like the icey snow pile either, but it is part of the cost of owning/renting/leasing a home......when i get too old to move it myself, will hire somebody to do it for me.


    16. rick at 2:19....don't need a public vote on this. sometimes the majority are wrong, and their needs/wants/greed cost all of us money...

      This is an interesting comment given that it follows an events center vote that will increase our community's debt burden by almost 200 million dollars!!

      Also, at the snow gate meeting Galen Huber stated that his goal is to have the entire city plowed in 36 hours. He went on to say that he is beating that goal by 6 hours.

      The 2010-2011 Snow Gate Analysis showed that total operational time increased by 23% with the use of snow gates.

      Using Galen's current figure of 30 hours to plow the entire city, that would mean that with snow gates it would take 36.9 hours.....hardly four or five days as you have stated!!!

    17. We have a $180 million events center to pay for. As of now there have been no cost overages. There will be. It is inevitable. Snow gates are a luxury item that the mayor is not interested in. Sorry snow gate supporters, it ain't happening.

    18. Anonymous at 6:01....

      When Mike made the decision to purchase the snow gates last year he was fulfilling a promise that he had made to voters during his mayoral campaign.

      My prediction.....

      If the Council votes "NO" to appropriating the funds for snow gates for the entire city.....

      There will be a "successful" petition drive to take it to a public vote....

      Which ultimately is probably a better option for ALL THOSE CITIZENS WHO DO WANT SNOW GATES because..........

      If this "Quality of Life" issue is decided through the initiative process, the Council will not be able to "tinker" with it in future years.........

    19. Like the council did with tree trimming and sidewalks? The city used to take care of their own property (the blvd) in the past, but the council changed that. I would agree with CR, better the public writes this ordinance, put it to a VOTE!

      "Snow gates are a luxury item that the mayor is not interested in." Don't be so sure, you can say what you want about Mike, but he does have a pulse on what the city wants. He got himself elected that way. He got the roads fixed, he got the EC passed. If he sees a large number of citizens wanting this, he won't fight it.

      "Actually, Mr. Know-It-All, my association's streets are private and the city doesn't plow them. So, your logic, once again, doesn't work."

      Who plows the streets up to your association? Santa Claus? Like I said above, 'I got mine so screw the rest of you'

    20. You know what guys, I was approached while down at the courthouse about this issue, you know what the first thing I thought of? Is wasn't taxes, extra costs considerations or even that I don't like to clean out "my" driveway! My first thought about this issue was, yea...... The senior citizens do not have to go out there in the freezing cold and attempt to get that snow/ice crap off their driveway that is left by the plow or pay someone to do it for them on a limited budget! From my understanding it is $750,000 for the snow gates, but we can pay miliions for a new event center...when we ALREADY HAVE ONE??

    21. This is about the silliest debate I've come across. Only $200k to decrease people's workload? Why would you possibly care what equipment is hung on public works vehicles anyway? Why are you willing to pay taxes and have the city give you more back breaking work to do when the work can be easily avoided? I'd be interested to know about injuries and fatalities while attacking the mound at the end of the driveway. Would the avoidance of one death a year attributed to clearing the mound be enough to spend a measly $200k?