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Albert Lea, MN 56007

Snow Removal Policy

November 26, 2007


The City of Albert Lea believes that it is in the best interest of the citizens for the City to assume basic responsibility for control of snow and ice on City streets. Reasonable snow and ice control is necessary for routine travel and emergency service. The City will provide such control in a safe and cost effective manner.

All Street Department Personnel shall know snow and ice control operations. The Street Superintendent also utilizes other departments and seasonal personnel to assist with snow removal operations. City crews remove snow from approximately 120 miles of streets within the city.


Alert and Call Out

During normal working hours, after hours, on weekends, and during holidays, the Street Superintendent or designee shall be responsible for monitoring street and weather conditions and initiation of snow plowing procedures.

Sanding and Salting

It shall be the policy of the City to consider cost, environmental impact of salt usage as well as safety of the motoring public when establishing application rates and location for application.

Sand and salt shall be applied to the street surface in such quantities so as to provide a level of skid resistance that is consistent with standards normally experienced on city streets throughout the State of Minnesota during the snow and ice season. It is recognized that a bare pavement policy is not possible at all times during winter periods in the northern regions of the country.

Anti-icing of the streets and pre-wetting of the sand/salt mixture will be utilized when temperatures and conditions warrant its use. The average winter season uses approximately 800 tons of salt and 1,500 tons of sand.

Streets shall be spot sanded to provide skid resistance and traction consistent with area standards in accordance with the following priorities:

Hills, controlled intersections, bridges and curves;
Arterial and collector streets;
School zones;
Bus routes;
Commercial and industrial;

Residential – blanket sanding of general snow pack on residential streets will not be accomplished.

When practical, sanding will be accomplished concurrent with plowing operations, however, not all equipment used in snow removal is capable of sanding. In those cases or when conditions warrant, the first priority shall be the snow removal with sanding occurring as appropriate equipment becomes available.

Snowplowing and ice control

Operations will typically commence when:

Snow accumulation of 3 inches or more;
Drifting of snow that causes problems for travel;
Icy conditions which seriously affect travel;
Time of snowfall in relationship to heavy use of streets

Snow and ice control operations are expensive and involve the use of limited personnel and equipment. Consequently snowplowing operations will not generally be conducted for snowfalls of less than 3 inches. Work periods shall not exceed safe limits that operators can continue without rest. Because of budget constraints, overtime is kept to a minimum. If the snow falls on a weekend or a holiday and is not considered a threat to public safety, only the State Highways and major arterial streets will be plowed and sanded until the next normal work day when the normal plowing procedure will take place.

D. Snowplow priorities
Snowplowing shall proceed as rapidly as possible in accordance with the following priorities:

Snow and ice control operations will be conducted only when weather conditions do not endanger the safety of City employees and equipment. Factors that may delay snow and ice control operations include: severe cold, significant winds, and limited visibility

Priorities for removal will be:

1. Trunk highways, arterial and collector streets;
2. Emergency vehicle locations;
3. School streets;
4. Bus routes;
5. Residential streets and alleys;
6. City parking lots.

The City is divided into 14 plow routes. In each area the “main line” or heavily traveled streets are plowed first (Main St., Broadway, Bridge Ave., Garfield Ave., Fountain St., Lakeview Blvd., Front St., Margaretha Ave., Richway Dr., Hammer Rd., Hawthorne St., Lakewood Ave., Martin Rd., S.E. Marshall St., Frank Ave., 1st Ave., 4th Ave., etc.), Plows then disperse to the less traveled residential areas. Sanding at this time is kept to a minimum so plows can open the streets as soon as possible for residential and emergency access. Storms of larger magnitude will take longer depending on severity. Extreme snowfalls may warrant the opening of two lanes initially and full width plowing to follow at a later time.

Timing of the snow fall is critical to when the snowplowing operation starts. Typically the department will start at 2:00 a.m., unless there is too much snow expected to fall later in the morning or the visibility is such that safety would be comprised. At 2:00 a.m. each unit goes to their designated route, except for two (2) trucks and one (1) motor grader. They plow Main St. and Broadway Ave., and then they move into their designated plow area. The motor graders pull all the snow from the curb into the wind rows in the center of the street in the downtown area. Under normal circumstances, the following morning (1:00 a.m.) this snow is blown into trucks and hauled to the snow dumps by city crews. Municipal parking lots are also hauled out at this time. This process takes place only after the town has been plowed curb to curb.

The downtown businesses need to have their sidewalks cleared by 1:00 a.m. so that all the snow is removed from the downtown. If a downtown business does not get their sidewalk cleared of snow by this time, the Street Department has to spend additional time at a later date cleaning up that snow. The business will be charged for the costs involved.

While the snow in the downtown is being removed, there will be two (2) to four (4) plow trucks that are canvassing the town, plowing where vehicles were parked, drifted areas or areas that might have been missed and any sanding that needs to be done. For very heavy snowfalls, the Street Department may utilize hired trucks to haul the snow if the budget allows.

There are areas of town that might have narrower streets or lack of boulevard width that will require the snow to be hauled out. This is dependent on accumulation amounts and work load. When the decision is made to clean the designated streets, the Street Department will post those streets with “No Parking” signs in the boulevard. Cul-de-sacs, dead-ends, and major intersections will also be cleaned also when the need arises. Ongoing snow and ice control efforts require the use of City owned right-of-ways and easements for storage of plowed snow. Depending upon the volume of snow, storage within right-of-way could create sight obstructions at intersections because it is impossible financially and practically to remove all snow from intersection corners.

Late spring and early snowfalls may be left on roadways if melting is determined eminent or if substantial damage will be caused to the pavement surface if plowed.

E. Snowplowing Alleys

Alleys will be plowed when residential streets are plowed provided the department is fully staffed and all equipment is operational. In the spring and early fall, there will be times when gravel alleys and gravel roads will be soft due to lack of frost. To preserve the integrity of the road, they may not be plowed at that time.

F. Parking Restrictions

It is highly encouraged that residents use off street parking for vehicles and trailers. (Section 62-68 of the City Ordinance) It is unlawful for any person to stop, park, or leave standing any vehicle upon any street for a continuous period in excess of 12 hours, unless otherwise designated as a prohibited parking zone. If an unlawfully parked vehicle is tagged with a warning notice and not moved the next day, it will be cited and after four (4) hours towed at the owner’s expense.

G. Snow Emergency

Declaration of Emergency
Whenever, in the opinion of the City Manager or in his or her absence, the City Engineer, an emergency exists he or she may declare an emergency and cause an announcement thereof to be made to local news media.

Beginning and Duration of Emergency

The emergency shall begin one hour after announcement to news media.
Once declared, the emergency shall remain in effect for the ensuing 72 hours, provided that the emergency may, in the same manner, be re-declared for subsequent like periods of time.

Unlawful Acts – During an emergency it is unlawful to park or leave standing any vehicles

On any street signposted in a manner similar to an emergency route.
On that side of the street on which the addresses include odd-numbered buildings on such dates as are also odd-numbered; or
On that side of the street on which the addresses include even-numbered buildings on such dates as are also even-numbered.

Exceptions – This section shall not apply to the following:

Persons in charge of wreckers or authorized emergency vehicles while actually servicing mechanical, fire, police or medical emergencies; or
Any street when it has been fully and completely (curb-to-curb) cleared, sanded, salted or cleaned.

Frequency – Due to the higher costs and expanded number of resources involved with a snow emergency it is highly unlikely that a snow emergency will be declared.

H. Property Damage
It is recognized by the City that on occasion private property is damaged during snow and ice control operations. Where this happens, it shall be the policy of the City to handle damages in the following manner:

Mailboxes – Where mailboxes are placed adjacent to the street it shall be the policy of the City that snow be plowed as close as practical to the curb to allow for passage of traffic and mail delivery. It shall be the responsibility of the property owner to keep piled snow away from the mailboxes so mail can be delivered.

Where damage to the mailbox occurs, the Street Superintendent shall investigate such damage. If it is determined that the weight of the snow caused the damage, the city will not assume responsibility for the repair or replacement of the mailbox or post. Where evidence indicates that physical contact between the plow and the mailbox occurred, the City will repair or replace the mailbox or provide payment of up to $50 to the property owner for repair or replacement.

Boulevard Sod – It shall be the policy of the City to repair any damage to sod where curbs are in place.Street maintenance will repair the damage by relaying the turned up pieces or placing black dirt and grass seed.

Landscaping (including nursery and inanimate materials that are installed or encroach on City owned right-of-way) will not be repaired by the City. The City will assume no responsibility for damages incurred as the result of snow removal and ice control activities except that the City will repair or replace sod only on City owned right-of-way that is removed as the result of plowing activities.

The City will assume no responsibility for damage to underground lawn sprinkling systems, exterior lighting systems, underground fencing, and similar landscaping installed in the City owned right-of-way.

Curbs – Concrete curbs will not be replaced unless the curb back is broken.

I. Sidewalks
In accordance with provisions of City code (Section 50-3 of the City ordinance) it is a petty misdemeanor to remove snow or ice from private property and place it on the public street or sidewalk. It shall be the responsibility of individual property owners to keep sidewalks abutting their residence or business free from ice or snow. Maintenance, including clearing of snow and ice and/or salting, shall be the responsibility of the individual property owners.

J. Driveways

Responsibility of driveways shall rest with individual property owners. This includes the clearing of additional snow that may accumulate each time the City plows have gone by.

K. Placement of snow on public property or obstructing views

In accordance with provisions of City Code (section 50-3) it is a petty misdemeanor to remove snow or ice from private property and place it on the public street or sidewalk. Cleared snow shall be piled and accumulated in a manner which does not block visibility of drivers on public streets and alleys or cause other hazardous conditions.