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City contemplating snow ordinance change

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Fairfield city staff want to remind residents about the importance of moving their car from the street to facilitate snow removal.

City Administrator Aaron Kooiker and Streets Superintendent Darrel Bisgard have said they intend to bring up the issue at the next public safety committee meeting. That meeting will be at 6 p.m. Jan. 28 at city hall.

The ordinance they want to re-examine is the one that requires residents to move their car on the street every 48 hours. Code enforcement officer Scott Vaughan said there is nothing in the ordinance requiring residents to move their cars sooner than that after a snowfall.

The only reference to snow in the city code is that residents must clear their sidewalks within 12 hours of a snow event.

Kooiker and Bisgard both felt that the city must do more to move cars off the street.

“One of our biggest obstacles [in moving snow] is cars parked on the street,” Kooiker said. “With more people living downtown, there are more cars downtown, and it’s a bigger issue.”

Kooiker said the city might require residents to park on one side of the street one day, and on the other side of the street the next. Nothing is set in stone yet.

If parking on the street …

Bisgard said that, for residents who must park on the street because they have no driveway, he’d like them to park their car at least 40 feet away from where it was the first time the snow plow went by. That way, it gives the plow enough room to maneuver and move the snow that had piled up around their car.

Parking around the square

Vehicles cannot park in the downtown between 2-6 a.m. Bisgard said this rule is especially important to follow after a snowfall.

“My biggest pet peeve is those cars on the square,” Bisgard said. “We have parking lots around there.”

Some of the municipal lots near the downtown include one south of the Methodist Church, one east of the VFW, and another by the Fairfield Community Center a couple of blocks south of the square.

Those who live downtown

Bisgard was asked what residents should do who live downtown. Must they park several blocks from their apartment? Bisgard said there is no way around it.

“I know people don’t want to walk in wintertime, but if there’s even one car [parked downtown], it messes up cleaning the four or five other stalls nearby,” he said.

Equipment all working

Bisgard said that, unlike during the last major snowstorm in late November that dropped 11 inches on the area, all his equipment is working. Three trucks put down a mixture of two parts sand and one part salt. He has seven employees who move snow with five dump truck plows and two pickup plows.

The superintendent said the low temperatures over the weekend made it hard to attack the snow, but he felt his department made a lot of progress peeling it off Tuesday.

Street crews began plowing snow at 4 a.m. Saturday, and worked until noon, then came back to plow again from 5-10 p.m. On Sunday, three employees cleaned the square, and on Monday, everybody was back out to hit the snow once more.

“Our guys are beat. They are working a lot of overtime,” Bisgard said. “I understand a lot of people are upset and impatient. We have a square to haul. The county doesn’t have a square to haul. They’re talking about another big snow this weekend, so we want to clean as much as we can now. We’re hauling sand to replenish our sand pile.”

The city salted the square on Friday just before the snow started falling. Generally, the city does not pretreat the roads the way the state does. The state puts down brine, a salt water solution that melts snow on contact. Bisgard said he is “dead set” against using Brine because of its corrosive effects on cars and the road, and because it requires maintaining another piece of equipment. Brine can get into every nook and cranny in a car, causing it to rust.

Bisgard said the use of brine has never been discussed at city council meetings, as far as he could remember.

Funding

The streets department does not get any money from city’s general fund. Instead, most of its funding comes from the state through road use taxes, which are awarded to governmental entities based on their population. For the current fiscal year, the state gave Fairfield about $1.15 million for roads. Supplemental funding came in the form of $260,000 from the Capital Improvement Reserve Fund and $250,000 from Local Option Sales Tax.

Bisgard allocated $16,000 for sand and salt. Apart from that, he does not keep track of how much of his department’s labor is spent on snow moving versus road repairs or other tasks.

Anger

Bisgard said he’s been taken aback by the level of anger expressed toward him and other city staff, both online and in person.

“Everybody has their opinions, and that’s OK, just be patient. People on social media get so angry,” he said. “When we plow the streets and create some slush, people throw things at us. People will be out there shoveling snow and hit the side of our truck with a shovel. People think we can do their driveway, but we can’t. We do the traveled portion of the streets.”