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Cottonwood Heights mayor, residents unhappy with new snow removal service

Published: Thursday, Sept. 3 2015 4:25 p.m. MDT

A snowplow plows and spreads salt on Fort Union Boulevard in Salt Lake County Wednesday, Dec. 4, 2013. Cottonwood Heights City has contracted with a private company instead of the Salt Lake County. There were multiple slide-offs and Fort Union Boulevard was shut down Tuesday night after a snowstorm. (Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News) A snowplow plows and spreads salt on Fort Union Boulevard in Salt Lake County Wednesday, Dec. 4, 2013. Cottonwood Heights City has contracted with a private company instead of the Salt Lake County. There were multiple slide-offs and Fort Union Boulevard was shut down Tuesday night after a snowstorm. (Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News)

COTTONWOOD HEIGHTS — The roads were clear of snow Wednesday in Cottonwood Heights, but the mayor and several residents say the private company recently contracted to plow the roads took too long to get the job done.

Mayor Kelvyn Cullimore said snow removal Tuesday was one of the city’s top five failures since he was elected in 2004.

On Sept. 24, the City Council voted unanimously to sign a three-year contract with Terracare Associates, a private landscaping and infrastructure management company based in Colorado, instead of using Salt Lake County services this year.

As part of the contract that started Nov. 1, Terracare is responsible for several public works services, including snow removal.

“No, we’re not happy at all, and the problem is we recognized that we’re responsible for having made the decision,” Cullimore said.

Motorists drive on Fort Union Boulevard in Salt Lake County Wednesday, Dec. 4, 2013. Cottonwood Heights City has contracted with a private company to remove snow instead of the Salt Lake County. There were multiple slide-offs and Fort Union Boulevard was shut down Tuesday night after a snowstorm. (Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News) Motorists drive on Fort Union Boulevard in Salt Lake County Wednesday, Dec. 4, 2013. Cottonwood Heights City has contracted with a private company to remove snow instead of the Salt Lake County. There were multiple slide-offs and Fort Union Boulevard was shut down Tuesday night after a snowstorm. (Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News)

Hundreds of residents contacted the city Tuesday to complain that their streets were not cleared. Some said their roads had not been plowed 24 hours after the snowstorm started.

“They were absolutely within their rights to be upset,” Cullimore said. “The level of service they received during this first snowstorm of the year did not measure up to what they were accustomed to.”

City officials said Terracare sent out five plows at 2 a.m., laying down salt and watching the roads before the snow started to stick around 5:30 a.m. The company started to plow the major roads, and more plows were called out.

At 8 a.m., there were seven plows in service, and by afternoon there were nine plows working to clear the roads.

Motorists drive on Fort Union Boulevard in Salt Lake County Wednesday, Dec. 4, 2013. Cottonwood Heights City has contracted with a private company to remove snow instead of the Salt Lake County. There were multiple slide-offs and Fort Union Boulevard was shut down Tuesday night after a snowstorm. (Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News) Motorists drive on Fort Union Boulevard in Salt Lake County Wednesday, Dec. 4, 2013. Cottonwood Heights City has contracted with a private company to remove snow instead of the Salt Lake County. There were multiple slide-offs and Fort Union Boulevard was shut down Tuesday night after a snowstorm. (Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News)

“The initial response was inadequate,” Cullimore said. “They only sent out half their resources. They should have sent them all.

"We're hoping this was just one of those times when the first experience is going to be a very steep learning curve, but from there we should get better," he added.

However, Kelly Sorenson isn't so sure. He was hired by Terracare Associates to help manage its Cottonwood Heights operation.

“They just didn’t have the experience they needed to do that big job,” Sorenson said.

Three weeks after he was hired, he was fired.

"They fired me when I started letting everybody know that these trucks weren't up to snuff to drive out there in the road," Sorenson said.

A snowplow plows and spreads salt on Fort Union Boulevard in Salt Lake County Wednesday, Dec. 4, 2013. Cottonwood Heights City has contracted with a private company instead of the Salt Lake County. There were multiple slide-offs and Fort Union Boulevard was shut down Tuesday night after a snowstorm. (Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News) A snowplow plows and spreads salt on Fort Union Boulevard in Salt Lake County Wednesday, Dec. 4, 2013. Cottonwood Heights City has contracted with a private company instead of the Salt Lake County. There were multiple slide-offs and Fort Union Boulevard was shut down Tuesday night after a snowstorm. (Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News)

He said he told his boss about his concerns, but "he just got angry with me.”

Sorenson said he then wrote a letter to the company's human resources department.

“I ran it by her that this is what's been going on. … I did that before I was fired, and the next day I was fired,” Sorenson said.

Dean Murphy, president of Terracare Associates, said he couldn't comment on personnel issues other than to say Sorenson’s firing had nothing to do with those claims.

Murphy said Terracare keeps its trucks and drivers up to code. He admitted the company messed up Tuesday and promised to do better.

"I believe the contractor understands our expectations,” Cullimore said. “Now the question is: Can they measure up? They claim they can, and they claim they understand where they messed up this time and know what they need to do to correct it."

Motorists drive on Fort Union Boulevard in Salt Lake County Wednesday, Dec. 4, 2013. Cottonwood Heights City has contracted with a private company to remove snow instead of the Salt Lake County. There were multiple slide-offs and Fort Union Boulevard was shut down Tuesday night after a snowstorm. (Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News) Motorists drive on Fort Union Boulevard in Salt Lake County Wednesday, Dec. 4, 2013. Cottonwood Heights City has contracted with a private company to remove snow instead of the Salt Lake County. There were multiple slide-offs and Fort Union Boulevard was shut down Tuesday night after a snowstorm. (Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News)

What happens if the company doesn’t improve its snow removal services?

"I assure you, if they can’t perform the job, we’ll find a way out of (the contract),” Cullimore said.

Email: acabrero@deseretnews.com

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