Statement from Cottonwood Heights leaders regarding snow removal

Statement from Cottonwood Heights leaders regarding snow removal
Posted on 12/05/2013

Public works functions in Cottonwood Heights, including effective snow removal, have always been a high priority for city leaders. However, the response by Cottonwood Heights and our public works contractor, Terracare Associates, during and after the snow storm that moved through Utah beginning on Dec. 3 was admittedly much different than city leaders had planned. This caused our residents to experience severe inconveniences and contributed to the creation of difficult road conditions in some parts of the city. We sincerely apologize to our residents and to the people who work in and travel through our city. We know that based on past experience, you expect more from us in terms of high-quality public services. We will do everything possible to remedy this situation and make appropriate corrections for the future.

On Thursday, Dec. 5, the Cottonwood Heights City Council called an emergency meeting to discuss solutions to the snow removal issue. As part of that meeting, the council formulated a short-term plan to address current road conditions in the city as well as prepare for Saturday’s predicted weather event. Therefore, along with our apologies, we’d like to help residents understand what to expect over the next few days, how the city will respond to this weekend’s predicted storm, and what the city officials and staff are doing to prevent future problems.

What to expect: Thursday to Saturday

As of Thursday, major and minor arterial roads in the city, such as Fort Union Boulevard and Highland Drive, are mostly clear and dry. (For a map of city streets and a complete list of snow removal priorities, visit our snow removal web page.) However, minor collector streets, residential roads and cul-de-sacs are still packed with ice and snow. Because of the severe temperature drop at the beginning of the storm and predicted low temperatures for the rest of the week, crews are having a hard time breaking the bond between the frozen streets and the snow and ice packed on top of them. As a result, many residential roads will still be snow packed when a new storm moves in on Saturday.

This doesn’t mean that crews will suspend their efforts. On the contrary, they will be out continuously working to break up the ice and snow as much as possible, day and night. Road graders are being used to shave down the layers of ice followed by salt application and then plowing of the resulting slush. The effectiveness of salting the roads is temperature dependent, and as temperatures reach 20 degrees the salt becomes more effective.

The city has contacted the Utah Department of Transportation (UDOT) and Salt Lake County seeking additional resources to assist in this effort.  UDOT is working with the city to provide materials to escalate the breaking down of the ice and snow accumulations on the streets.  Salt Lake County has graciously offered to send resources also to help with removal of existing ice and snow as well as supplemental snow plowing services for coming storms.

What to expect: Saturday’s storm

With a chance for more snow predicted on Saturday, we have put together an action plan which includes the following:

  • City leaders have reached out to UDOT and Salt Lake County and will bring in additional resources to clear city roads.
  • Highly experienced drivers from Terracare’s office in Denver will team up with local drivers to enhance training while focusing on residential streets.
  • CHPD will have more officers on the streets to keep an eye on conditions and call for more snow removal resources as needed.

What to expect: Planning for the future

Given the forecast for continuing low temperatures, many roads will not be totally cleared until the warmer temperatures arrive. Efforts will be focused primarily on sloped streets until then, as they represent the greatest hazards.

As we look at the events of the past week, we are using lessons we’ve learned to decide how to proceed in the future. While we are watching to see how public works functions are handled in the coming week, the city council is also exploring all options with regard to the legal and logistical constraints of its contract with Terracare. Council members have also asked Terracare to consider making changes to the type of equipment they use in the city, and to make those changes as soon as possible.

Meanwhile, the council will work with other public entities to make sure that additional resources are brought to the city when needed, and we thank local partners for their help and concern. The council and staff are also working to determine whether the city’s prioritization of city streets needs to be reviewed and updated.

How to connect with us

Many residents have already sent comments to us through phone calls, email and Help Desk, and by commenting on our CHCity Facebook and Twitter accounts. We appreciate your input and invite you to connect with us through those channels. Residents are also welcome to comment to the city council directly during the citizen comment portion of business meetings. The next city council business meeting will be held on Dec. 17 at 7 p.m. at the city offices.