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St. Robert aldermen ban plowing snow onto roads, rights-of-way
ST. ROBERT, Mo. (Feb. 2, 2009) — Want to get rid of snow by plowing it from private driveways into city streets?

Don’t try it in St. Robert.

At Monday night’s city council meeting, aldermen unanimously passed a new ordinance drafted by City Attorney Kevin Hillman following up on a request last week for help from Lyle Thomas, the city’s director of public works.

“There were some issues with private snowplow operators pushing their snow into our city streets, which is a problem after we’ve cleared it off,” Hillman said. “It was frustrating to our snowplow drivers to have the streets cleared and then for snow to be re-deposited onto that street. The other problem we were having was snowplow operators, with the amount of snow we had, piling it up not in the back of the parking lot but out on the right-of-way. The piles were such that they obstructed the ability of cars to turn. They asked me to look at an ordinance to prohibit that type of activity from here on into the future.”

Hillman investigated ordinances from cities in northern states such as Iowa and Minnesota, selected several he liked, and drafted a new ordinance which will prohibit pushing snow into St. Robert roadways and piling up snow on city rights-of way.

“How are we going to enforce that?” asked Alderman Ralph Cook.

Hillman said it would be a municipal code violation, and cost of removal could be assessed to the person who pushed the snow onto city streets or rights-of-way.

Responding to questions from aldermen on who would be cited to appear in municipal court, Hillman said it would be the snowplow operator, not necessarily the property owner.

“Will we always know? We won’t necessarily know who, but in this case, (a city worker) actually caught them in the act and had to take his truck and block them from doing it anymore. In that case, he could contact the police department,” Hillman said.

In cases where the plow operator wasn’t caught in the act, Hillman said the merchant owning a business would be asked who he had hired to plow his driveway.

“The police would go to the merchant and ask, ‘Who did it?’” Hillman said. “The cost would not be taxed to the merchant. It would be actually taxed to the person removing the snow.”

Alderman Todd Williams urged caution in enforcement.

“We’re kind of late in the year, but on something like this, especially if we are going to start imposing potential fines or something like that, we ought to think about getting the word out that, ‘Hey, this is a code violation,’” Williams said, urging issuance of warnings before fines are imposed.

“It’s a shame that we have to go to an ordinance to do that; I mean, common sense should prevail,” Cook said.

Hillman said common sense hasn’t been prevailing.

“I think what (the city road foreman) would have liked to have had was the ability to say, ‘Hey, what you are doing is against the law, stop it,’ and he didn’t have the ability to say that,” Hillman said.

“It was not uncommon to find this ordinance in a lot of cities from northern Missouri and Iowa and Illinois,” Hillman said, noting that some cities even have ordinances for declared snow emergencies with restricted parking on certain roads.

Hillman didn’t recommend adopting snow emergency ordinances, but said there are some roads in St. Robert that are very difficult to plow when cars are parked on them.

“I didn’t know it’s been a problem throughout the city. I mean, we’ve had snow here before but I didn’t know it’s been a problem here,” Cook said.

“It’s always been a problem,” replied Thomas, the city’s director of public works.

Aldermen were convinced by Hillman and road workers of the need for the ordinance and adopted the snow removal ordinance unanimously, with Aldermen Theresa Cook and Bill Shaw absent.

Mayor George Sanders presented certificates of appreciation to city workers who assisted in clearing snow last week, and the city’s street foreman thanked city officials for their appreciation.

Fire Chief Chuck Fraley said last week’s weather was a major challenge but less so in St. Robert than other areas because of the diligent work of snowplow crews.

“We respond not only in our city but also go mutual aid. We leave the city limits, and our streets in our city, I’m telling you were tremendously great to drive through,” Fraley said. “When we left the city limits, we didn’t have the same feeling out on some of the county roads.”

Fraley thanked city plow crews for finding the time to clear an area the fire department needed for a scheduled training event last weekend, in addition to their road plowing duties.

The fire department also responded to a mutual aid request much farther away for the city of Kennett in the Missouri Bootheel region, he said, where emergency responders were overwhelmed by ice storms that knocked down power lines. Two firefighters went Wednesday and returned Friday, with a second crew of two firefighters leaving on Friday and returning on Sunday.

“I’m pleased that we have personnel who are willing to go help other communities and represent us well,” Fraley said.

Thomas said about 30 tons of road salt are left in city stockpiles and about 40 tons are mixed and ready for the next storm.

“All the vehicles stayed up during the operations although we did have one is in for repair, a minor electrical problem which shorted out the dashboard lights,” Thomas said. “Things went real well during the snow removal. We had one minor power outage during the whole deal and that was just a blown fuse, and I do appreciate that the council recognized the street department this evening.”

Thomas said he’s already started calling to obtain salt for the 2009-10 winter, which was a problem in the fall of 2008.

“Hopefully this year we have more luck than we had last year,” Thomas said.

Aldermen asked Thomas to convey their thanks to his crews.

“You did an outstanding job on those roads,” Williams said. “They did them quick, they did a great job, they were clear, they were working.”

Cook agreed.

“I want to commend you on Sawmill and Lensman; those are probably two of the steepest roads that we’ve got in the city, and I think everybody did well. I had no complaints,” Cook said. “As steep as that road is on Sawmill and Lensman, people were still coming up it.”

Only three complaints were received citywide, Thomas said, about winter road issues.

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