Snowfall puts a strain on city staff
Any hopes that last week's warm temperatures might bring an early thaw were more or less crushed by Mother Nature when she dumped somewhere around 15 inches of snow to Farmington Sunday and Monday.
Even early into Tuesday afternoon, piles of snow lined the downtown streets while city plow crews worked their third day in a row, trying to get rid of all of the extra snow.
The snow started falling Sunday morning, and it wasn't long before the first plow crews were out and about. Farmington director of municipal services Todd Reiten said the plows first hit the streets at 1:30 p.m. Sunday.
But the snow kept falling. Plow drivers took a break from 9 p.m., Sunday until 3 a.m. Monday. They worked until 4 p.m. Monday afternoon, then went back out again at 3 a.m. Tuesday.
Because most of the plowing was done on the weekend, a holiday and on overnight hours, plow drivers have been on overtime pretty much the entire time they were plowing, up until their regular work hours started Tuesday morning.
The story sounds a lot like one from early December, when 17 or 18 inches of snow fell over the community and city plow crews spent the better part of three days trying to clear away the snow. This time, though, things have gone a little more smoothly, Reiten said. For one thing, two different city vehicles broke down while clearing snow during the December storm.
By Tuesday morning, Reiten thought the streets were looking pretty good, all things considered.
But the big snowfall caused a problem crews didn't have earlier this winter. Apparently, city crews are running out of places to store the snow. Normally, the snow is piled up in the vacant lots alongside of Schmitz-Maki Arena, but with all the snow from before still in place, it's getting tricky to put more there.
"Right now, we just keep pushing it up higher and higher," Reiten said. "I don't know. It's a son of a gun."
Some snow from the northern part of town is being stored at the Municipal Services Campus off of 195th Street and Pilot Knob Road. If necessary, Reiten said, snow can be stored at Boeckman Middle School, too.
Once the snow was plowed from the streets, plow crews set about clearing piles in the parking lots at Rambling River Center, the Dakota County Library and Farmington City Hall. At the same time, Reiten was out looking at the cul-de-sacs in town to see if any of those had to be removed.
Reiten said he's gotten a few phone calls from residents. Some are just questions or concerns about the plowing, but others have been complaints about plows covering up areas of sidewalks that had already been shoveled by residents.
Unfortunately, Reiten said, that's what happens when there is this much snow on the ground. The initial pass clears the streets, but then crews have to go back a few times more to push more snow back and try to widen streets again.
"That's just normal plowing procedure," he said. "We can't run and clear everybody's sidewalk. We just don't have the people to do it."
Last week's short spring-like thaw did help things a little, Reiten said. Some of the previous snow melted, and that means less to melt even after this past weekend's snowfall.
Once the streets are in satisfactory condition, the city crews will go back and clear out catch basins and drains so that the water has a place to go once the snow starts to melt.
"Otherwise the snow can't run down. It starts backing up and freezes at night. We just want to make sure the water is running right," Reiten said.
With luck, this will be the last of major snowfalls for the season and city maintenance workers can start on other projects.
"Then we'll be starting on potholes," Reiten said.