Snow job

Council, chamber to discuss downtown plowing district

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A downtown store owner shovels snow off the sidewalk in front of his store after a March snowfall. The Stillwater City Council is considering a downtown snow plowing district as a a way to fund faster snow removal from that area. (Gazette File Photo)

It won’t be long before snow flies, and the Stillwater City Council is considering an idea to remove snow from the downtown area within one to two days of a snowfall.

The council and Greater Stillwater Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Todd Streeter decided Tuesday to discuss with downtown business owners creation of a downtown snow plowing district.

The idea of a downtown snow plowing district arose after last year’s hard winter had many people, including the chamber’s Downtown Revitalization Committee, asking about the best ways to remove snow from the curbs within 24 to 48 hours after a snowfall.
City Engineer Shawn Sanders presented options to the council Tuesday that include subcontracting the work out or putting a plan in place for the city employees. He said either option would likely cost the city $14,388 for each snowfall. The assessed area would be 13,000 linear feet, resulting in a $1.07 per snow event charge to downtown business owners.

“We had a lot of snow this past year, and our crews’ first priority is to make sure that people can get to work, and we didn’t have the manpower or the resources to be able to clear the snow within 24 to 48 hours,” said City Administrator Larry Hansen. “Last year was the most snow I’ve ever seen. I saw people climbing over snow banks, walking on narrow roads with their kids trying to get to the corner to cross, and I didn’t think this was acceptable.”

Hansen added that city officials also looked into subcontracting the sidewalk-clearing work.

“There are lots of people who do a great job clearing their sidewalks. They’re out there at 6 a.m. cleaning it up while their next door neighbor may not do anything with it all winter,” Hansen said.

Subcontracting snow removal from sidewalks could cost $108 an hour, according to Sanders. To pay for this service, an ordinance was introduced to council allowing the city engineer to assess the cost of the service to the business owner. An assessment hearing would have to take place at the end of the season and the assessments would vary annually depending on snowfall.

The council decided to postpone a decision on the snow plow district until more talks take place with downtown business owners.

“My only concern with this plan is that the Downtown Revitalization Committee is really a small group of people. If we’re gonna put this on everyone downtown, we need to make sure that we talk to all businesses and not just a select group,” said Councilman Mike Polehna. “We need to bring the other businesses into this before moving forward.”

Streeter agreed with Polehna, adding that he, Hansen and other city officials would talk with downtown business owners about the snow plowing district idea and bring their comments to a future council meeting.

Contact Avery Cropp at avery.cropp@ecm-inc.com

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