If Lexington gets significant snowfall this winter, it could take longer to clear streets under a new plan adopted by the city.
City officials opted not to have a private contractor on standby this year after the city had to pay that contractor $180,000 last year, despite not using the contractor due to a mild winter. That decision, combined with a shortage of employees with commercial drivers licenses, means the city may take as long as 36 hours to clear all streets after a major snow event, said Rob Allen, deputy director of streets and roads.
A committee of the Lexington-Fayette Urban County Council agreed in a September meeting to extend the number of hours the city can take to clear streets from 24 to 36. The committee decided to extend the deadline rather than decrease the number of streets plowed.
“We will still be able to use private contractors if there is a major snow event over 4 inches,” Allen said.
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The city has been looking at ways to trim costs because it is bracing for a steep increase — possibly as much as $17 million — in its payment to the state for employee pensions.
The city’s agreement with private contractors started nearly three years ago after a particularly harsh winter in 2015.
During major snow storms, the cost of clearing streets adds up quickly.
For example, after getting more than 7 inches of snow in January 2016, the city spent more than $850,000 on snow removal, including more than $175,000 on three plowing contractors.
Weather forecasts show that Lexington could possibly get snow later in the week, but those forecasts show little accumulation.
The city has 6,000 tons of salt on hand and can purchase 3,000 additional tons if needed, Allen said. The city has 40 trucks dedicated to snow removal and 100 drivers, officials said.
Allen said the city has stepped up its recruitment of employees with commercial driver’s licenses, which is required to drive a snow plow. A wave of retirements coupled with a nationwide shortage of CDL drivers has led to a shortage of drivers who can remove snow.
“We have worked to recruit more drivers and are working with other city departments to get more CDL drivers,” Allen said.
The city’s goal is still to clear snow from streets as quickly as possible, he said.
“We live and work here, too,” he said.
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Lexington’s snow removal plan is available on its website at lexingtonky.gov/snow