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Summit County Plow Drivers Ride Herd On Powder; One Incident Brings Apology

Summit County’s snow plow operators are busy with the recent winter weather—especially when significant dumps of powder are falling right on the holidays.

In the meantime,  the county has apologized for the snafu committed by one plow driver.

In a recent social-media post, a Pinebrook resident attracted notice when he complained that, as he was driving in the neighborhood on a blind corner, he encountered a snowplow coming at him, in the wrong lane, causing him to run into a ditch.  

Furthermore, the resident said, the plow driver claimed he was entitled to drive there, since he is an emergency vehicle.

However, in a recent visit with KPCW, County Public Works Director Derrick Radke said the driver was in the wrong lane.        

“He was misinformed on his ability to do that.   We’ve since had that discussion, reminded the entire crew that they are not allowed to drive in the opposite lane.    Certainly there’s some circumstances where it’s easier to throw snow over the edge of the bank if they’re going the wrong direction.  But that’s not our policy, it’s not allowed.  If that happens, people can certainly give me a call and we’ll address it.   I spoke to the guy.  I told him we were in the wrong and apologized for the incident.  Luckily no one was hurt and there was no property damage.”

He said the plow drivers follow the same rules, about lanes of travel and speed limits, that apply to any other motorist.        

“If we’re gonna be doing some snow clearing, and we’re pushing back and things like that, then we typically try to have someone out there to guide traffic, so that we can—our equipment does need to move across the lanes and back and forth in order to push back.   But the normal snow plow activity should be just driving with traffic and throwing the snow to the sides.”

Radke said in general, the Public Works staff monitors the weather forecasts.   When a storm is expected, their day starts pretty early.       

“Our plow guys are—we have set hours that we typically work.   When it’s gonna snow, they report at 4 o’clock in the morning, and they hit the road so that we can get the plow—the school buses up to pick up their kids.   And then we try to make sure that we’re back in the afternoons to make sure that the routes are also clear.”

He said if a storm is expected later in the day, the drivers report in at about 6 a.m.

Radke also said that, a couple of years ago, on the advice of the county’s legal staff, they set a policy for the hours that drivers are required to work.      

“Our drivers are allowed to work 10 hours a day, normally, up to 10, drive for 10.  But if there’s a snow event, I’m as the director authorized to let them work up to 12.   And if it’s a bigger event, then we request a snow emergency from the County Manager.    And he can let us work up to 14 hours a day, and no more than 60 hours in a week.  If we exceed those thresholds, there’s some minimum rest periods that we have to do.    Cause we don’t cover 24 hours a day.  We do work 7 days a week, but we don’t work 24 hours a day.  The maximum time that we’re on the road is—we’re off the road at 10 o’clock at night.  So we leave the areas by 10, so our drivers are back and off and headed home by 11.”

They also have a policy for a prolonged storm.    

“But normally, if it’s gonna be an extended storm, we’ll pull about a third of the crew off at noon.   If it’s gonna continue into the evening hours, and then they go home, get some rest.   And then they’ll report back 4 or 5 in the afternoon and then work until that 10 o’clock hour, so we can keep the main roads open.”

We also asked about  recent complaints that some bus passengers have to wait for transit out in the street, because banks of snow on the roadside don’t give them a place to stand.

Radke said they’’ve been working to clear away the snow, at least, at the established bus shelters.         

“We have a crew that goes out and clears the shelter areas on every storm.   We try to make sure that the shelters are clear, that they have a 48-inch walking path to the trail or the sidewalk.  We have a guy that does that.   That’s his job.  Certainly during the heat of the storm, are there times when there’s gonna be snow there?  Yep, absolutely.    But we try to get that area, those areas cleared as quick as possible.   As far as I know, nobody’s getting on and off right in the middle of the street.  But we get a foot of snow and it’s possible.  (Carolyn) The shelters are cleared then,  not bus stop areas necessarily? (Radke)  Well, the areas in front of the shelters are.  When we have a pole stop, I’m not sure we do a whole lot to clear those areas.”

County Public Works Director Derrick Radke, who reminded residents that on-street parking is prohibited during the winter.

He also reminded residents not to push their snow out into the streets.     That snow can get pushed into your neighbors’ yard, or it can freeze up and result in snow berms in the road

Known for getting all the facts right, as well as his distinctive sign-off, Rick covered Summit County meetings and issues for 35 years on KPCW. He now heads the Friday Film Review team.
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