Fayette County

Lexington officials, council members discuss how to improve snow removal

A snow plow led traffic along Versailles Road on Monday, Feb. 16, 2015.
A snow plow led traffic along Versailles Road on Monday, Feb. 16, 2015. Herald-Leader

Lexington is moving forward with a revamp of its snow-removal plan after two record-breaking snowstorms last winter.

As part of improving snow removal, the city is updating its priority list of which streets get plowed first and is tweaking its policies on when to bring in private contractors to augment city crews, city officials told the Urban County Council at a meeting Tuesday.

Final changes to the snow-removal plan will be unveiled at a meeting in August.

David Holmes, commissioner of the Department of Environmental Quality and Public Works, told the Urban County Environmental Quality and Public Works Committee on Tuesday that the city's snow priority removal maps were last changed in 2008.

"There has been significant growth in some areas," Holmes said. "We are working to update our maps with current information."

In addition, a group that has worked to improve the city's snow plan also has recommended that the city improve in several key areas including clearing sidewalks, Lextran bus stops, school bus routes, neighborhood courts and cul-de-sacs.

The city plows major routes with significant traffic first.

Those streets include Main and Vine streets, and Nicholasville Road, where many of the city's hospitals are located. Next on the city's plowing priority list are major connector streets, such as Albany Road.

The third priority streets are major collector routes. Major neighborhood streets are last. Smaller streets in neighborhoods are not on the city's plowing list.

Holmes told the council during Tuesday's meeting that they want the council's feedback on how the city ranks streets for plowing. The use of many roads has changed since the 2008 map was developed. For example, Holmes said, when Citation Boulevard is completed, it is likely to become a major connector road.

It took the city several days to get into neighborhoods after two major snowstorms this winter: a storm Feb. 15 and 16 that dumped 10.2 inches on Lexington streets, and a second storm March 4 and 5, which dropped 17.2 inches of snow in Lexington, a record for a two-day storm.

The Feb. 15 and 16 storm was followed by bitterly cold air and additional snow on Feb. 17 and Feb. 20, and that made clearing snow even more difficult, Holmes said. "We had to go back and clean priority-one streets several times, which means you can't get to your priority-three streets."

The city used private contractors — which cost about $334,675 — to clear many of those neighborhood streets during the February and March storms, Holmes said.

The city is changing its policy on when to mobilize private contractors. It also is trying to improve the clearing of city-owned sidewalks — a shortcoming that caused frequent complaints during both storms.

"We also realized that we had dropped the ball on sidewalks — city-owned sidewalks," Holmes said. "That is one of the areas that we are going to focus on."

Because sidewalks were not shoveled, people walked in the streets, which is dangerous, Holmes said. The city is also trying to figure out how to plow courts and cul-de-sacs. Cul-de-sacs — particularly those with parked cars in them — are nearly impossible for plows to tackle, Holmes said.

"Some cul-de-sacs can take as long as 45 minutes to plow," Holmes said. The city is mapping all the cul-de-sacs in the city so officials and staffers know where they are.

Many council members said during Tuesday's meeting that they want the city to improve communication but made suggestions on how to improve snow removal.

Council member Susan Lamb recommended that the city improve its enforcement of a local ordinance that allows the city to ticket homeowners and businesses that do not clear sidewalks. Not only did the city drop the ball on cleaning its own sidewalks, Fayette County Public Schools also failed to clear sidewalks during the storms, she said.

Councilman Jake Gibbs agreed that snow-packed sidewalks were a problem.

"This was a pedestrian disaster," Gibbs said of the two storms. Businesses in particular were at fault during the past two storms, he said.

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