I read the article titled, "Dozens decry Helena's snow removal issues; officials say next time will be better" in the Independent Record recently. I then went to the City's website to see how to contact the City Commission. The Helena City website still lists Jim Smith as Mayor and the Dan Ellison as a Commissioner.
I guess I shouldn't be surprised that the city staff still hasn't updated the city's website since the city also does a horrible job plowing the streets. The article in the paper said: "When a snowstorm begins and two inches of snow accumulates, snowplow drivers begin working on emergency snow routes, major arteries and then residential areas and special requests for service."
I did not see any city snow plows after the storm that hit Helena at the end of December until January 2nd even on main streets. I assumed the city snow plow drivers were told not to come to work over the long New Year’s weekend.
I recommend that the commission ask the state of Montana for advice on how to plow streets. Montana Avenue, which is a state road, is plowed by the state and ice free soon after it snows.
The City of Helena hasn't always been incompetent when it comes to snow plowing. I remember growing up in Helena in the 1970s. A day or two after it snowed, the city would get to the side streets even if it was on a weekend and plow them from curb to curb with the blade all the way down. If the city does attempt to plow a side street now, the blade is always about six inches off the snow. I have been told the city doesn't want to put the blade all the way down because it wears out the blade and the streets. Why was the city able to put the blade all the way down in the 1970s but not today?
On my street, the city has not plowed all winter but it has sanded about once a week. The snow plow comes by with a load of sand which disappears into the ice very quickly because the dark sand absorbs the heat from the sun and sinks into the ice. At night when it gets colder a new layer of ice covers the sand and it is icy all over again. It is a great make work project for the city. Don't plow the streets and then they have to put sand on the streets over and over again. In the spring they spend weeks sweeping up all of the sand.
Wouldn't it be cheaper and more effective to get all 10 of the snow plow drivers out right after it snows and plow like the state does instead of letting cars pack the snow down into ice? The state of Montana hasn't had to put sand down on Montana Avenue since they plowed it because they plowed all the snow.
I was also taken aback by the following statement in the paper, "I feel frustrated," Noonan wrote, "but maybe we can find a different approach, as well as make some inroads into convincing staff we need an approach specific to this winter's specific circumstance."
Why is the City Commission having trouble convincing the staff to do a good job plowing? The city staff works for the Commission. If they won't do what the Commission asks, they should replace the City Manager with somebody who knows how to plow city streets.