The Orem City Council knows residents are unhappy with snow removal service, but members aren't sure what they can do about it without spending a lot more of the taxpayers' money.
Orem has four snowplows and one road grader that can be converted into a plow. When snow accumulates to a depth of 4 inches, plows begin clearing major streets and intersections, hills and the streets around schools. The process usually takes five to eight hours. Many minor streets never get plowed at all, said to Steve Weber, Orem maintenance division manager."And once the snow has been there a while, it can get so hard our equipment can't do much. We just have to wait for a thaw," Weber said Thursday. He added that snow plowed in intersections can turn into ice and block pedestrian traffic.
On Tuesday, council members discussed the "ice sculptures" residents must negotiate to drive down the streets or walk along sidewalks and through intersections.
"We always talk about how to provide more safety for the citizens, then we force them off the sidewalks onto the streets," Councilman Kelvin Clayton said.
Members were especially concerned about pedestrians on Eighth North. Councilman Keith Hunt said area residents would not shovel their curbs or walks and put the snow on their lawns because the salt spread by the Highway Department kills grass.
"They say, `I made that mistake two years in a row now. I'm not shoveling my walk this year. I can't afford to put in another new lawn.' "
Hunt said every person but one who called him about the snow wanted the city to do more plowing.
"I've had only one person call and say `stop plowing. The snow piles up too high and I cannot get out of my driveway.' "
Willes said the city would get calls no matter what it did. "There is no way to avoid criticism on snow," he said.
Weber said Orem has spent about $45,000 on snow removal this season (figure includes salt, cinders, labor and equipment depreciation).
"We only have four plows and a grader, so there's only so much we can do," Weber said. "Sometimes, only the minimum gets done."
In an emergency, Orem will hire extra snowplows at $75 an hour, he said. Orem has rented plows several times this season, he said, but officials try to limit such expenditures, which quickly eat the budget.
Weber said the budget for snow removal is flexible because the same budget is used for road repair. In years that more snow removal is required, road crews simply have less money for summer road repair, he said. In an average year, snow removal costs about $60,000.
His department is getting fewer complaint calls this season, Weber said.
"I don't know if the weather is better, if we are doing a better job or if people are just getting used to the problems. I hope we are doing a better job."
Weber said he got about 180 complaint calls in January 1988, and about 75 or 80 in the past 30 days.
Weber said he thinks Orem crews are doing a great job with the resources they have, but his informal survey shows Orem has fewer plows than any other Utah city of comparable size. Asked why Orem does not invest in more snowplows and operators, Weber said,"ask the City Council."