By Mayor Mike Wiza
Winter in Wisconsin has many challenges. Freezing pipes, slippery walkways, salt killing the lawns and vehicles and sloppy roads. I’d like to explain a few things about what the city does and why.
This past week’s snow had a lot of buildup in the media (social and otherwise), but was less than noteworthy by the time it passed through Portage County. It happens, but better to be over prepared than under, I suppose.
The biggest issue the city faces is plowing and clearing the streets to make travel safe as soon as possible. Plows are wide and we have a lot of miles to plow, salt and sand. To clear the streets well we need to have everything off those streets. I’m sure you’ve seen the swerving piles occasionally. That is where the drivers had to go around a vehicle.
We do not have a magic weather “eight ball” to tell us exactly what will happen and how long it will last. We need to look at the radar, talk to the National Weather Service and make a guess, just like everyone else.
The only way the city can quickly put in parking restrictions is through the state’s “emergency powers” statutes. I need to “declare an emergency” to put in a simple parking restriction on short notice. I’m looking into ways to work around this because when people read “emergency” it carries a certain weight to it. I would rather have an ordinance that prohibits parking on the street for any “plowable” event.
We also have a snow plan in the city. This booklet tells city employees exactly what we do in different types of winter events. Brine, salt, plow and sand routes are mapped out for the drivers and roads are classified as “A”, “B”, and “C” routes. “A” routes being the most used primary thoroughfares like Division, Main and Clark streets. Those streets are priorities and may get cleared multiple times before a “C” route is touched.
Now, with that, we have to make all roads passable before we can “clean them up”. So you may see the plows come through your road once early, then more times as the snow subsides to better clear and widen the road. Only after the roads are plowed and safe do we start thinking about picking up the snow and cutting down the banks, and the same logic applies. Busy areas like downtown, city hall, and emergency services building get done first. Then those snowbanks that create vision or traffic hazards, finally everything else as time allows. The picking may only start days after the snow stops.
Keep in mind we only have so many people and hours in a day and continue to have other work to do in the meantime.
I’d also remind resident to please try to clear any hydrants on your block. It is a big help for the firefighters if they ever need to use them.
Understand that we chose to live in Wisconsin in the winter. We are no strangers to what happens. I get snow plowed onto my sidewalk, too. I have to clear a spot for my trash cans just like you do. I have to deal with the large snowbanks in front of my house. It is frustrating for a lot of us, but spring is right around the corner and the boat and motorcycle are calling my name.
If anyone has questions or comments, you can email me from stevenspoint.com or call 715-346-1570.