ORROCK TOWNSHIP SUP. Ron Dolly is the road authority tasked with the tough job of keeping local streets open during the long, cold winter. (Photo by Jennifer Edwards).

Snowfall miseries piling up

Staff Writer
Jennifer Edwards
The winter of 2013-14 will go down in the record books as one of the most severe in recent memory, with over 50 days below zero degrees and lots of snow.
There has been so much snow in fact that those responsible for removing it are hard pressed to find a place to put it all, especially in some of the areas around Big Lake where the streets are already very narrow.
“We did wing some of it back after the last snow fall,” said Public Works Director Mike Goebel. “But then we are also trying to avoid damaging mailboxes and whatever else may be hidden under it.”
In some of the older areas of Big Lake, the situation became so serious, Goebel did authorize hauling some of it away.
“Right now we keep trying to push it back with plows and winging it and we have used loaders to push it back, but it is so hard,” Goebel said.
“We have had a lot of problems with drifting this year too,” he said. “We have had drifts 10-12 feet high and the roads are getting narrower.”
Goebel says he is hoping for warmer temperatures soon and a nice, slow snow melt to help thaw water pipes, which are still freezing up around the state. Worst case scenario-more snow.
Out in Big Lake and Orrock townships, the story is much the same.  Plowing and winging the road edges keeps most of them passable but in the areas around Big Eagle Lake and Ann Lake where the roads are narrower, this winter’s snowfall has created some headaches.
“I had to declare a snow emergency,” said Orrock Township Road Authority Ron Dolly. “People were calling me asking for help because there was just nowhere to put all the snow.”
Contractor Rocky Mountain came in with a front end loader and two trucks to remove some of the snow from the area around the lakes so cars could pass safely and emergency vehicles would have access if needed at a cost of $1,000.
“I really want to thank everybody for their patience,” said Dolly. “It has been a terrible winter but we are getting it handled.”
Another issue which creates a hazard of its own arises when residents push snow across the road in front of their homes. This is not a legally permitted means of snow removal. The snow sets up hard as concrete and can cause drivers to lose control of their vehicles.
“We have had more than 50 people in the township do that already this year,” Dolly said. “I understand it. It is hard when there is no place to put it all but you cannot push it across the street. It’s dangerous.”
It is not legal for residents to plow their own roads. Residents with questions about snow removal should contact public works in the city of Big Lake, or the town halls in Big Lake or Orrock townships. Contractors will be notified of areas in need of extra attention by the appropriate road authority. 
“I want the people to know we are there for them,” said Dolly. “We will get the streets fixed and the roads plowed and we will do it at a reasonable price.”
Last winter, Orrock Township spent $34,883 on snow removal in November and December. This year, they spent $15,707 during the same two months, Dolly said. 
Orrock is paying a flat fee of $50,000 for snow removal this winter and $34 per ton for salt and sand. 
Last year, JME charged $86 per hour per truck for their plow trucks and $76 per hour for the use of a smaller pick up. They also charged $68 per ton for salt and sand.
Big Lake Township, which maintains 80 miles of roads, has hired JME and TW Hauling to keep their roads clear. They paid $163,000 for snow removal  this winter before Dec. 31.
“Now we have had to put all that salt and sand down, it will cost us more to clean up when we sweep the roads in the spring,” said Clerk Laura Hayes. “The costs just keep mounting.”
In January 2013, Orrock had two inches of snow and spent $3,772 on snow removal. This January there was 16 inches of snow, removed at a cost of $12,065.
“Even with the difference between a bad winter and a good winter, we have saved at least $14,099 so far,” Dolly said.


Joseph Lee Rettke

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