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We generally don't use sand because, in an urban setting like Battle Creek, sand washes into and can clog our storm sewers. However, there are occasions when we will use a small amount of sand, when roads are extremely icy and temperatures are extremely low. If we see a lot of hard-packed snow at an intersection and salt isn't working, we will use sand. We do not use sand downtown.
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We wish we had enough snow plows and drivers to take care of every street right away, but our resources are limited, so we must adhere to a carefully laid out system for clearing the streets. If we allowed our plows to be diverted each time a special request is made, it would take longer to get all streets in the city cleared. Plowing priorities are: 1) State trunklines and major streets; 2) Battle Creek Transit bus routes and around schools; 3) residential streets; 4) cul-de-sacs and alleys.
We estimate that it takes three days to plow the entire city.
Each snow plow has an assigned section. If the trucks spread salt on the way to their destination, they won't have enough to spread in their sections. Plus, other drivers passing through may plow off the salt without realizing it. Plowing along the way would mean that it would take that much longer for the truck to reach its assigned section.
A plow can easily cut a path through the snow on a straight road surface, but trying to plow and turn the blade in the small circle of a cul-de-sac is very difficult. Therefore, smaller pickup trucks with plows are used to plow most cul-de-sacs more efficiently than the large trucks. We also plow toward the middle of the street, to avoid filling driveways in this smaller space.Please note that cul-de-sacs are lower on our plowing priority list, since we have fewer neighbors living on them. We ask for your patience and our trucks will get to you.
Sidewalks are a lower priority and our crews begin that work when possible, once roads are cleared. We have 300 miles of roads within the city limits and 25 crew members who plow in the 13 maintenance sections of the city.
When we're able, we clear city-owned sidewalks around our parks, cemeteries, and several other areas.
We do also have designated snow removal priority areas -- in particular around schools and public transportation routes. For more information on our sidewalk ordinance (Chapter 1022), please call our Code Compliance Division, 269-966-3387.
For the 2018-2019 season, we have a budget of roughly $2.1 million, which includes major, local, and MDOT roads. Plowing is funded by state Public Act 51 money, which comes from the gas and weight taxes. Local taxes do not fund snow plowing operations. Overall, our budgets have started to increase, but we face increased expenses. We deal with fuel costs, equipment costs (a dump truck cost $70,000 in 2000 and $125,000 in 2012), and salt costs.
We place two salt orders for the year. In 2018-2019, our early order (October delivery) was 500 tons at $60.43 per ton. Our seasonal order (throughout the winter) was 5,500 tons at $54.45 per ton. Total, that's nearly $330,000 for the season.