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Winter is calling: Dickinson Street Department updates on snow removal, reminders for residents

A look at what the City of Dickinson Street Department is doing in preparation for winter. How does the city direct its order of plow routes? What are some city ordinances that take effect during the winter and what should home owners be aware of?

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A City of Dickinson Street Department winter operator plows snow during a previous snowfall. (Dickinson Press File Photo)
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With winter on the rise, Dickinson’s Street Department is getting its crew of operators ready for colder weather and is advising the public to do their part by following city ordinances pertaining to snow removal.

Street Operations Manager David Clem and Chief Street Maintenance Operator Darryl Wehner provided a report during the Dickinson City Commission meeting Tuesday, Nov. 2, at City Hall, reviewing the Street Department’s strategy plan for handling winter weather events.

Throughout the city, the Street Department covers 368 lane miles with approximately 28.3 lane miles per employee. Due to limited staffing, each shift will be put on when needed to allow the department to start treating roads before heavy traffic flow begins, Clem said, adding that during a major event, some personnel will be assigned to night shift to maintain access for emergency services.

“(With) 13 employees, it’s a little shy… We’re a little smaller than a bunch of cities, but we do have additional assets that we use,” Clem said. “Solid Waste comes and helps us (and) Water Utilities. So depending on the severity of the storm, if we need to call them in, they come over and help us out.”

For winter operations, the Street Department holds training sessions for both new and veteran operators each season covering various topics.

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“What we do is we bring them into a classroom setting. We review all the snow and ice controls, the basics of what they’re doing, the material (we're) using and selection of the material (and) operating techniques and guidelines is what really comes in handy of how to remove the snow and the ice off the streets the safest way and the most productive way,” Clem said.

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A City of Dickinson Street Department employee operates a snow blower to clear a street during a previous heavy snowfall. (Contributed / City of Dickinson Street Department)

Plow routes

Plow routes are also important to review with new and veteran operators for the winter season, Clem said. The Street Department is required to first open Level 1 routes, or federal and state funded roads, along with access to emergency services facilities such as Dickinson’s police, fire and ambulance centers as well as emergency snow routes, Clem said.

From there, Level 2 routes such as collector and school roads will be plowed afterwards, Clem said, explaining that the goal is to maintain travel during snow events on Level 1 and 2 routes. Residential streets will be plowed after the snow event is over and Level 1 and 2 roads are clear. The order of plowing depends on several factors, Clem said, explaining that the area with the largest amount of snow, coordination with Solid Waste routes and wind and drifting conditions are all viable elements to winter plowing priorities.

As operators remove snow, each winter equipment is outfitted with a tracker that records which roads are completed, how fast the equipment is traveling and the amount of material application, Clem noted.

Wehner added that the Public Works Department has a live feed of the route completion map available to City of Dickinson officials, including City Administrator Brian Winningham and the Dickinson Police Department.

Snow removal

Winter operators also follow a flow chart that dictates when anti-icing products can be dispensed on streets. Wehner noted that anti-icing is when operators go out before the storm hits and apply a brine product on the road.

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“So when the snow starts falling, it keeps it from sticking to the road (and) it turns it into slush, so traffic and plows can get it off the road quicker,” Wehner said, adding, “We’ve used it successfully in the last few years. There are areas in town we don’t really dare do it. For example, out on the bypass because if there’s snow drifting across the road — the old ground drifting that we have once in a while in North Dakota — (and) we anti-ice, it’ll actually create ice with that. So there are specific times we can and can’t use it.”

Following a winter maintenance conference that the City of Dickinson Street Department attended, Clem learned how the City of Fargo uses another product besides beet juice that is called “AMP.” Overall, the City of Fargo has been able to lower its winter maintenance cost with this product. Though it costs a little more per gallon, Clem said it covers 40-50% more.

“So we’re actually looking at that. We’re going to try a little bit of it this year just to see if it could help us reduce some of our costs for next year,” Clem added.

For Dickinson residents, snow and ice must be removed from sidewalks within 72 hours after the weather event ends and ice melt or sand must be spread on any icy patches within the same time period, according to City Code. Snow may be piled onto each individual’s own yard, the boulevard or in the parking lane of the street if there is no other place to put it.

The Street Department advises people to wait until the street has been plowed before cleaning out the end of their driveways. When possible, snow should be placed on the opposite side of the driveway from which the snow plow is coming. This will allow the plow to carry the snow away from the driveway rather than back into it.

For commercial businesses, sidewalks must be cleared within 72 hours after the snow stops falling and ice melt or sand must also be spread on any icy patches within the same time period. According to the Street Department, a business that has no room on the property – with the street on one side and a building on the other side – may put snow in the parking lane or alley way, but only if those conditions are present.

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With the winter parking ordinance now in effect through March 31, 2022, trailers, RVs, boats or campers will be prohibited from parking on a public street in a residential area. (Jackie Jahfetson / The Dickinson Press)

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Winter parking

City Code also prohibits any person to park any boat, bumper-pull travel trailer, fifth-wheel trailer, pull-type camper, motor home, house car, bus, mini-motor home or trailer on the public right-of-way in any residentially zoned area for more than 48 hours from Nov. 1 to March 31. If a person violates that city ordinance, impoundment and notice procedures will follow, according to City Code.

“It does make it hard to get the roadways open without going back if we got campers in there,” Clem said.

During a snow emergency, any cars parked on any snow emergency route is open to citation and/or towing at the owner’s expense. To receive notifications when snow emergencies are declared, download the DickinsonWorks app.

In other City of Dickinson news, the Street Department was presented with the “Excellence in Snow and Ice” award from the North Dakota Chapter of the American Public Works Association on Oct. 3, in Fargo. The award recognized the department’s commitment to use environmentally responsible methods of controlling snow and ice.

For more information on snow removal routes and winter ordinances, visit dickinsongov.com and follow the departments tab. Then under Public Works, select “Street.”

This is the first article to this three-part series "Winter Is Calling." In the following two articles of this series, we will speak with the Dickinson Police and Fire departments who share advice and tips on what residents can do to prepare for the winter months ahead.

Jackie Jahfetson is a graduate of Northern Michigan University whose journalism path began in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan as a freelancer for The Daily Mining Gazette. Her previous roles include editor-in-chief at The North Wind and reporter at The Mining Journal in Marquette, Mich. Raised on a dairy farm, she immediately knew Dickinson would be her first destination west as she focuses on gaining aptitude for ranch life, crop farming and everything agriculture. She covers hard news stories centered on government, fires, crime and education. When not fulfilling deadlines and attending city commission meetings, she is a budding musician and singer.
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