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RECORD SNOW GIVES PLOWS A WORKOUT

SHARE RECORD SNOW GIVES PLOWS A WORKOUT

While city crews throughout the county had snowplows, sanders and backhoes ready in October for the winter, most of them were caught off guard with the amount of use the equipment received in November.

Although most cities say they have an adequate amount of snow- removal equipment, Utah County's large population growth and the potentially heavy winter ahead have engineers wishing they had more equipment on hand."We could use two more (snowplows) right now," said Kent Wheeler, Mapleton's public works director.

"We've never been hit this hard, this early, in the 11 years I've been here," said Kent Fowden, superintendent of streets for Payson. "The last storm took us 20 hours to clear the roads."

Snowplows and other snow-removal equipment are a big expense. A plow averages about $80,000, and blades cost between $150 and $400 each depending on what they're made of. The two most commonly used blades are made of steel or rubber. Depending on the severity of the winter, a plow averages about three blade changes per winter.

Along with the equipment comes the tons of sand, salt and cinders used to give vehicles traction on icy roads. "We try to keep at least 200 tons of salt and cinders on hand," said Frank Mills, public works director in Pleasant Grove. "In a heavy winter we'll go through 800 to 1,200 ton a year."

Larger cities like Provo keep at least 500 tons of salt on hand and are quick to replenish the pile after a storm. Most cities use a combination of salt and sand, and some use sand and cinders. But according to Richard Manning, public works director in Orem, those products contribute to the PM10 air pollution problem in the county, and regulations from the Division of Air Quality require cities to devise a mitigation plan to clean residue within three days after the streets dry.

Determining when it is time to bring out the plows and sand usually falls on the shoulders of the city engineer or public works director. In some of the smaller towns, direction comes from the police department. One thing is common however, the first areas cleared are main roads, schools, hospitals and emergency routes.

"We plow any road that is evenly divisible by four, like 800 South, 400 East," Manning said.

Some cities wait until there is an accumulation of 2 or more inches, while others are out at the first signs of snow. Typically snowplows will begin to clean major streets when it is determined road conditions have become perilous.

The busiest snow-removal crews are at Brigham Young University. Roy Petermen, grounds manager, has four snowplows, seven pickup trucks with plows and 19 converted tractors out during a storm.

"We have 196 acres of parking lots, 14 miles of roads and enough 12-foot-wide sidewalk to stretch from Provo to north Bountiful," Petermen said. "We're inviting people to come here for entertainment and activities, and their safety is important."

The job of snowplowing is not glamorous, according to Mills, but some crews do like to have fun. Residents in Pleasant Grove may find Santa Claus plowing their streets around Christmas time. Other cities decorate plows with ornaments and trim.

And although some residents complain about blocked driveways and neglected streets, most cities report their drivers are often brought a cup of hot chocolate or a snack of some kind to help them through the long hours. Mills says the friendly relationship is important to develop because those same crews will be filling the potholes in the spring.

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ADDITIONAL INFORMATION

Many miles to plow

City Plows Miles

Alpine 2 50

Am. Fork 4 107

Highland 1 29

Lehi 6 60

Lindon 2 75

Mapleton 2 37

Orem 6 208

Payson 2 66

Pl. Grove 4 80

Provo 15 325

Spanish Fork 5 80

Springville 7 75

Utah County 12 400