With all the snow falling on this time of year, people wonder what’s going on with the plowing in Rexburg? How does it happen? Does it happen?
It happens, it’s just more intricate than one might think.
According to the city’s snow plowing policy, each plowing costs $25,000. This money gets broken up between brining the streets before a storm to help the snow melt, subcontracting other plow-drivers to help plow the streets, paying their own workers to plow and salting the icy intersections and major crosswalks.
“You can do a little bit of quick math: if we get called out 20 times, if we have 20 snow events times $25,000, that’s half a million dollars,” said Jerry Merrill, Rexburg’s mayor. “It varies each year, but as you can see, it adds up.”
The money that funds plowing is also the street maintenance budget, so every dollar the city spends on plowing is a dollar lost to fixing the roads in the summer.
“Every community is challenged with snow removal and budgets, so budget constraints always play a role in what you can and can’t do,” said Keith Davidson, Rexburg public works director. “Every community is trying to balance the budgets the best they can with spending money on snow removal and street maintenance. And I would say, most communities, if not all, street budgets are underfunded … Unfortunately, that’s a challenge that we face, and we try to do the best we can with the budget that we have.”
Once a snowstorm has dropped about two inches on the streets, the plowing starts. However, to keep traffic safe, the road graders start between 9 p.m. and midnight. Davidson said they usually work eight to 10 hours each time they plow, so they finish between 7 and 8 a.m.
The reason behind late-night plowing is that graders and trucks move about 14 mph. When they plow an intersection, they back in and out several times. The mayor said safety is the driving force for late-night plowing.
On some streets, the snow is removed instead of plowed to the side. It’s taken to an empty lot on Barney Dairy Road with some piles reaching 15 feet tall.
City sidewalks get plowed when they have half an inch to a full inch of snow. This plowing starts while the streets are being cleaned at about 3 a.m.
However, home and business owners are expected to plow the sidewalks in front of their houses and businesses, while the city plows sidewalks near the parks as well as some other city–owned properties.
“We appreciate the patience of people in helping us to get the snow off the roads,” Merrill said. “It’s always good when we can work together to try to understand the complexities of removing snow. There’s a lot of things we have to consider … budget and safety and time … I know it’s not perfect for everybody, but I feel like our crews do a great job. They keep the streets cleared out well; there’s still ice and snow around and people just need to be careful. If they do that, they’ll be fine.”