The bill for clearing last weekend's snow storm from Orem streets was bigger than the city's total snow-removal bill for last season.
"We got about 27 inches in 72 hours," Jack Jones, director of Orem's public works, told the City Council on Tuesday. "We haven't had a storm like this in about 38 years."The city had earmarked approximately $50,000 for 1988-89 snow removal, but this storm cost $47,000 to clear. This season, labor, materials, depreciation of equipment and supplemental help from private contractors have already cost Orem more than $107,000.
Orem will try to absorb the extra snow-removal costs by cutting back on road repair projects this summer. If costs cannot be fully absorbed, streets officials will ask the City Council for extra funds.
Orem crews worked the city's four plows and one road grader nearly non-stop over the weekend. Three additional plows were leased for the weekend.
A recent survey by Orem officials showed that for its size, Orem has fewer snow plows than comparable Utah cities. To clear its 250 miles of streets, Provo would need to have each of its 14 plows clear 17.9 miles of road. Ogden has 227 miles of streets and 24 plows that each would be responsible for 9.5 miles of road.
Orem has 205 miles of streets. If the entire city were to be cleared of snow, each of the five plows would need to cover 41 miles of road. Orem cleared every street after the last storm but usually plows only major streets.
"We have had in past years a fairly limited posture on snow removal," city Manager Daryl Berlin said. "In years when there's no snow, everyone thinks it's a good way to save money. We really don't have the ability to deal with big storms unless we augment the system (by hiring additional workers and leasing equipment), and that costs us more."
Councilman Keith Hunt said limited snow removal made sense.
"When we have a storm like this, everyone wishes we had more crews and equipment, but it wouldn't really be smart to buy equipment and hire people so they could sit and wait 30 years for the next storm like this. We just have to recognize Mother Nature is going to do things like this once in a while."
After small storms, the city only salts streets.
"We use one part salt to five parts cinders," Jones said. "The state uses equal parts salt and cinders; that's why their snow melts so fast. The extra salt does create prob-lems for the concrete and for cars."
After a medium storm, creating as much as 4 inches of snow, city crews will sand and plow major collector streets and secondary streets but will not do residential roads.
For a major storm of more than 4 inches, the city will do the preceding and tackle some residential streets. A major storm forces Orem to hire extra workers and equipment.
Councilman Kelvin Clayton was most concerned about clearing sidewalks for pedestrian safety.
"It's pretty silly to have a crossing guard help kids across the street when there's no sidewalk. They have to walk in the street."
Jones told council members property owners who do not clear their walks can be charged with a misdemeanor, but enforcing the law might be a problem.
Clayton suggested the city hire contractors to clear hazardous residential walks, then send a bill to property owners. It could work like weed abatement, he said.
Hunt said it would probably be cheaper to hire teenagers to drive pedestrians around. He admitted that would not be an option but urged the city staff to think of other creative alternatives that could save money and solve the problem.
The staff agreed to prepare a report on problem spots in the city and the costs associated with various solutions.