Lexington city officials will return to the Urban County Council next month with some options to amp up the city's snow-removal plan.
But it's likely that any option the city chooses will have a hefty price tag.
David Holmes, the commissioner of the Department of Environmental Quality and Public Works, said the goal is to plow more streets in less time. Holmes appeared Tuesday before the Environmental Quality and Public Works Committee.
Council members said they would like to see various cost options depending on how much snow falls.
Holmes, who oversees streets and roads, said the city is re-evaluating how streets are ranked for plowing. Streets with a rank one — such as major streets such as Nicholasville Road, Main and Vine streets — are plowed first. The city ranks streets one through four. But shorter neighborhood streets with few residents are not on the city's snow priority ranking.
Those streets not on the city's snow plan would be ranked 5, Holmes said.
Holmes told the committee Tuesday that adding those unranked streets, including cul-de-sacs and dead-end streets, would mean an additional 1,025 lane miles of plowing, bringing the total to 2,271 lane miles. The city currently plows 1,246 lane miles.
All of those additional lane miles would cost about $180,000 for each snowstorm.
Another option: Hiring private contractors to take care of major roads including Man o' War, Citation and Polo Club boulevards, and Coldstream Station would cost an additional $195,000 for the first snow.
Holmes said the advantage of having those private contractors on retainer is that it would free up city snow plows to get to other streets faster.
Another option is to call on private contractors when there is a major snow. The city used private contractors — which cost more than $334,675 — to clear streets during the major snowstorms in February and March.
Council member Jake Gibbs said he lives in a downtown neighborhood. After a 3-inch snowstorm, most people don't expect to see city snow plows in neighborhoods. But they do expect to have neighborhood streets plowed after 10 inches of snow.
Councilwoman Angela Evans said she was glad that the city was reranking the streets. The last time the street rankings were changed was in 2008.
"Most of my constituents just want to know where their streets were on the list," Evans said.
Holmes said one of the problems is that it's difficult to predict what a snow storm will cost because each storm is unique. Last winter's storms were particularly tricky because of repeat snowfall and subfreezing temperatures. It took the city several days to get into neighborhoods after the two major snowstorms: 10.2 inches on Feb. 15 and 16, and 17.2 inches on March 4 and 5, 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.
Also during Tuesday's meeting, city officials presented a new plan to clear all sidewalks controlled by the city. The city was criticized during snow storms in February and March for failing to clear its own sidewalks despite having an ordinance that allows the city to fine residents and businesses for failing to clear sidewalks. The city snow-removal plan would need additional equipment to clear the 67 sidewalk miles it controls, city officials said. That would require an additional $168,000 to buy the necessary equipment. The council made no final decisions on buying the sidewalk clearing equipment at Tuesday's meeting. Under the sidewalk clearing plan, sidewalks would also be ranked and those with the highest ranking would be cleared first.