Friday, January 9, 2009

Residents complain about Hailey snow removal

Piles of snow in Deerfield cause problems

Express Staff Writer

Deerfield resident Erwin Kett is taking issue with Hailey’s snow removal techniques, which he says obstruct visibility from his driveway. Photo by David N. Seelig

Two weeks after Hailey street crews began dealing with a double-whammy Christmas snowstorm, some Deerfield residents are taking issue with the city's snow removal techniques.

Throughout the east Hailey neighborhood, large piles of snow have been stacked on city rights of way, which can stretch as far as 38 feet from the edge of the street.

In some cases, the piles are obstructing visibility for residents leaving their driveways. Some Deerfield residents have complained that the city has dumped loads of snow on fragile landscaping on private property along driveways.

"You have to keep in mind that that city property extends quite a bit wider than where the asphalt ends," said City Public Works Director Tom Hellen, whose snow removal crew was reduced from eight men to four due to budget cuts during the construction recession. Also, work formerly done by city employees is being contracted out to local construction companies.

In addition, Hailey street crews have been hit with far more snow than last year. Hellen reported on Thursday that 45 percent more snow was removed from Hailey Streets at the end of 2008 than the city removed during the entire winter two years ago.

Some complaints may be due to residents' not knowing how much of their streets belong to the city.

Hellen says the city's right of way extends 18 to 38 feet from the roadside within the city. Deerfield has some of the widest rights of way. These zones are used for snow storage by city plowing crews.

"A large percentage of the complaints we get are from people who don't know where their property line ends," Hellen said.

Erwin Kett lives on the corner of Buckskin Drive and White Tail Drive in Deerfield. On Tuesday he and some of his neighbors were clearing the ends of their driveways for the second time, after city front-end loaders pushed snow back into their driveways while cutting into the established snow berm at the edge of the street.

"The plows drive too fast and they come too late," said Kett, who lives on a corner lot, where city crews pile snow the highest. Kett said the piles are a hazard because they obstruct his visibility when pulling out of his driveway.

Hellen pointed out that corner lots such as Kett's often get the biggest piles of snow because they are the first places a snowplow can use to empty its blade.

"That is the nature of plowing," Hellen said.

As for snow that falls back into driveways when crews are reworking neighborhoods to prepare for future storms, Hellen says his crews try to take care of spillage as they go. He said it is a courtesy, rather than a requirement, that the city clean up driveway ends in the process, often pushing snow to the sides of driveways.

"We make an effort to clear driveways, but at this point we don't know if there is landscaping there or not," he said.

Deerfield resident Kristin Poole has had trouble with the city's snow removal techniques from time to time, but was pleased on Tuesday to see that the berms at the edge of her driveway had been cut back by city crews.

"It can be unsafe exiting driveways when you can't see onto the road," she said.

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