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The City Journals

Heavier snowfall causing headaches for Taylorsville drivers and snowplow crews

Feb 09, 2017 12:06PM ● By Bryan Scott

Salt Lake County snowplow drivers have been unusually busy this winter. (Carl Fauver/City Journals)

By Carl Fauver | [email protected]

Zach Heiner had a late Christmas with his wife this winter. The Heiners don’t have children yet, so little ones weren’t pestering to see what Santa brought at 5 a.m. And that’s a good thing.

Heiner is one of the many Salt Lake County snowplow drivers who removed the frosty precipitation that the rest of us were dreaming about—the “White Christmas” snow. 

“I drove my plow from about 1:50 Christmas morning to 1:30 that afternoon,” Heiner said. “I figured it was OK to work the holiday because it was helping other people to get around to enjoy their Christmas. It just delayed my wife and me from opening our gifts a little bit.”

Heiner also worked an 11-hour snowplow shift on New Year’s Day.

At its Jan. 11 meeting, the Taylorsville City Council heard a positive update from Salt Lake County Public Works Operations Director Kevyn Smeltzer. He said Heiner wasn’t alone. 

“I have a very dedicated staff,” Seltzer said. “We had 64 of our 70 snowplow drivers working 12-hour shifts on Christmas Day.”

Smeltzer told council members his staff’s biggest challenge continues to be vehicles parked curbside. “Sometimes our drivers have to completely bypass neighborhood streets if cars are parked on both sides,” he said. “They crank their (snowplow) blades as sharply as they can to fit through. But if they’re concerned about hitting a car, they have to skip the street and check back later to see if the cars have been moved.”

Public works personnel say this is particularly a problem on narrower cul-de-sac roads, or those with larger vehicles parked curbside.

It is illegal, year-round, to leave vehicles parked along a curb for more than 24 consecutive hours in Taylorsville. And during the winter (November through April) it’s illegal to leave them on the curb overnight.

“We’ve had to tow more vehicles this winter than ever before,” City Administrator John Taylor told the Taylorsville Council. “And people have also learned how to play the ‘24-hour game.’ They will simply drive around the block and park in a slightly different position to avoid a citation.”

Taylor told the council he does not believe the city ordinance needs to be changed at this time. But it will continue to be enforced. 

Snow removal from sidewalks is another annual challenge. Residents are required to shovel sidewalks and access to mail boxes. Taylor added, “We have not yet issued any citations to residents for not clearing sidewalks. But we may have to look at that, if it continues to be neglected.”

Council members also suggested city staff compile an email list of all Taylorsville businesses that have sidewalks, so they can be sent reminders to shovel them after heavy snowstorms. 

Smeltzer said his crews will continue to work 12- to 16-hour snowplow shifts when heavy storms hit. He says neighborhood streets often require at least two passes. “In heavy snow, our trucks normally go through once each direction to clear a critical access path,” he said. “Then they will return later to push the snow all the way to the curb.”

Major thoroughfares can require several snowplow passes, sometimes by different agencies. For instance, on 2700 West, Taylorsville and West Valley City split the snowplow duties, with West Valley working the west side of the road, and Taylorsville the east. 

Then from 4700 to 5400 South, on the same street, Taylorsville is responsible for both sides.

“We would just like to remind drivers and residents to be patient,” Smeltzer added. “Our crews are working long shifts, and if you are courteous with them, it will make getting the job done that much easier and more efficient.”

After all, did you have to wait until after 1:30 p.m. to open your Christmas gifts like Zach and his wife?

The Salt Lake County Public Works Department also operates a 24-hour snowplow hotline for residents to report streets that have not been plowed. That number is 385-468-6101.