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County reports plowing cost, goals to public

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Plowing roads in Crow Wing County after the Dec. 2-6 storm that dropped 18 inches on the lakes area cost $239 per mile of roadway. The total cost for that storm, including salt, sand, equipment and personnel costs, was $148,007.

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Compare that to the Dec. 22-23 storm, which dropped 2.5 inches. Plowing for that storm cost $38 per mile, totaling $24,444, according to the county’s website.

Whatever the cost, though, county engineer Tim Bray said safety on the roads is the first priority.

The Crow Wing County Highway Department recently rolled out a new self-evaluating report to the public that tells the cost of plowing for each snowstorm and how well the county met its plowing goals.

For example, the county reported that the Dec. 2-6 storm, called winter storm “Cleon,” incurred costs of $8,590 worth of salt, $42,118 worth of sand, $7,077 worth of brine and $38,007 in staff time and overtime pay. Along with the cost of equipment, the storm total was $148,007 in total plowing costs.

Bray said his department has been compiling the reports for a year to work out the kinks of reporting, and only recently released the reports to the public. He said that in all the reports the department has compiled, winter storm Cleon was the worst so far in terms of the county meeting its own goals.

The county met only 38 percent of its plowing goals for high priority roads during winter storm Cleon, but Bray said that’s mostly due to the very cold temperatures and the large amounts of snow that fell.

“If it was 20-25 degrees, we would have made our goals,” Bray said.

He often receives phone calls from citizens regarding the plowing. He got few after Cleon, though, and he said it’s probably because residents knew it was so cold and difficult to keep up with the snow.

The county’s plowing goal for high priority roads is to see some bare pavement within 18 hours of the end of the snowfall, and to have made a single pass in each lane with salted or sanded hills, curves and intersections within six hours of the end of snowfall.

Goals for lower priority roads are easier to meet, and after the Dec. 22-23 storm, the county met 100 percent of its goals for two categories of lower priority roads.

On low priority roads, goals include, most notably, a single pass with the plow within 12 or 18 hours of the end of the snowfall, depending on how much traffic the road gets.

Bray said that while storms like Cleon can be expensive, the county will not stop plowing simply because of cost.

“There should be no excuse that it cost too much and we didn’t plow a road, and then somebody got hurt. That’s not acceptable,” he said.

For that reason, Bray didn’t give an exact amount for the bottom line of the county’s snowplow budget.

“Providing a safe transportation system has to be my highest priority. I wouldn’t sacrifice plowing in winter to do construction in the summer,” he said.

The goals the county sets are there so the county can strive for a high level of service. If the goals are met consistently, the county will raise the bar.

The plowing team, Bray said, works hard to clear the roads. They look forward to making the roads safe to travel.

His entire crew was called to work at 3 a.m. Christmas morning.

“I never heard one complaint from the plow drivers despite the requirement to disrupt their family’s Christmas plans,” Bray said in an email.

Snowplow reports are available on the highway department page of the county’s website, crowwing.us, under “snow plow events.”

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