Entries Tagged 'Public Works' ↓

Snowplow Identification?

Theresa Stehly (co-chair of the snow gate petition) recently had a letter published in the Argus Leader about identifying snow gate plows;

Snow Gate Service:  WINNERS AND LOSERS

Our citizens voted a year ago to make it mandatory that the city use snow gates to clear the driveways in Sioux Falls. As the co-chair of the group that brought this issue to a vote, I have received many comments, both positive and negative about the quality of service provided during snow events. Our members have surveyed different neighborhoods after the snow plows have come through, and have discovered vast differences of efficiency in clearing the driveways with snow gates.  There are snow gate operators out there who are doing a fantastic job.  However, I have been told by the city street department that many drivers are still learning how to use the gates. We certainly understand that there are factors that could hinder the process like inexperience, attitude and fatigue.

We would like to see more accountability in the process.  One area of assistance would be to have a large marking on each snow plow. Galen Huber, the street supervisor, told me that the plows already have a number assigned to them. Using that same number, enlarging it in black letters and placing it on each side of the plow, would give the citizens the information needed to help the drivers do a better job.  Also, there could be an incentive for the drivers who had the most positive comments.  Many of us have seen the markings on the back of semi-trucks that say “How is my driving ?  Along with a phone number.”   This inspires the person behind the wheel to do their best at all times. The same would hold true for our snow gate operators. Using information called in by the citizens, the street department could work with those drivers who are having a difficult time getting the job done.  The manufacturer of our snow gates is willing to come and train drivers on the proper technique to clean all driveways within a neighborhood.

Along with an identifying number on each plow, the city needs to develop a SNOW GATE hotline.  We have a POT-HOLE hotline, and the city sends out flyers with contact numbers to file complaints about neighbors who violate city codes.   These numbers are frequently published and people are encouraged to call about their concerns.  The same energy needs to go into the snow gate program. The city needs to   include the snow gate hot line phone number in all mailings and media programs.

The snow gates have been a wonderful addition to the amenities offered by our city government. With some additional effort, we can create a winning experience next winter for all the citizens of Sioux Falls.

While we rob Federal paybacks on Levees for Indoor Pool, we have to borrow money for Sewers

Remember when we got over $11 million back for building the levees? This would have been the perfect project for us to spend the money on;

A massive project to replace a sewer line that carries almost all of Sioux Falls’ wastewater won’t cost taxpayers as much after the state approved more than $30 million in low-interest loans to pay for the work.

The 1.25 percent interest loans offered by the state will be paid back over 10 years.

“On that amount of dollars, that’s a substantial savings,” said Cotter, referring to the higher interest rates associated with traditional loans.

Hey Mark, we could have saved 100% if we would have paid for the project with the Levee repayment fund and surplus in the budget. But that’s right, we need to build playthings, they are more important. Maybe the next time the sewer system threatens a backup, we can use the new indoor pool to store all of the sewage instead of Covell Lake or pouring it down residential streets.

If we truly had a mayor who was concerned about prudence, he would have allocated the money correctly and put the pool on hold. But that would take someone who actually cares about the average tax payer and not himself and the special interests.

BTW, I heard the indoor tennis facility’s membership drive isn’t doing so well. Rough road, isn’t it Mike, when you have to spend your own money on play things? Can we get our $500,000K back please?

Thumbs up to the Sioux Falls Street Department

This is something that has been tossed around for awhile, and I highly recommend the city budgets in 2016 for these units;

Sioux Falls Street Fleet Galynn Huber says the city is in line to update technology on their trucks that will make your life easier the next time it snows.

“When we eventually go to putting GPS units in our trucks so that people can see where we’re at, it’s going to be key,” said Huber

The GPS would track the snow plows as they cleared the roads.

It would also help residents see when snowplows are in the area, for parking, driveway scooping, etc.

Reader Comment

A DaCola reader sent me this comment today;

Time for the subject of potholes to be rehashed. During the last couple weeks when the roads were 80%dry and temps would allow, I couldn’t help but notice SFSD (sioux falls street dept) out in force, desperately patching holes all over town, in very quick fashion, only to drive by days later to see them opened up again! I know it’s not the time of year for SFSD to do this, correctly, but IMO, why bother? Alignment shops about to get busy for sure. Thanks again MMM…

I have noticed this to, and it often makes me shake my head, because when you put hot patch in a wet cold hole it doesn’t stick.

The changing story about snow gates

 

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The above picture was sent to me by a reader that told me they didn’t even bother dropping the snow gate on his driveway, but did across the street. They also didn’t do a very good job on my driveway, my berm was over a foot high, while my neighbors had less, with longer driveways. I guess the snow plow drivers are determining who gets snow gate service thru the eeny-meeny-miney-mo process. That’s not how we wrote the ballot initiative AND now I am wondering what the consequences if an operator isn’t attempting to do it right? In other cities if the gates are not done right you can call into public works and they will come and clean it for you. There are some factors here to consider, the operators are paid an hourly wage, in other words if they have to slow down a bit, it is not going to affect their workload. Something else I like to remind people that the end of your driveway is OWNED by the city, clearing the streets IMO is no different then taking care of the curb. The Public Works department encourages residents to call them if they missed your driveway, so they can assess the situation.

There has often been an argument from the Public Works department that they really don’t work as well on long driveways and snows over 6 inches, which I find to be misleading.

Just yesterday I witnessed (below graphic) a snowplow operator kind of put that argument to shame. As I was sitting at the light on 49th street waiting to merge onto Western Ave. two snowplows going South on Western passed by. The first one had no snow gate, the second did, and he dropped it across 5 lanes of traffic (hardly slowing down) and I didn’t see any snow come over the snow gate until he was almost all the way across. As we said while doing research on snow gates across the country, they work on long driveways and in deep snow, now if our Public Works department will just choose to use them properly and often.

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When snow gates don’t work it’s operator error

Once again, the half-ass TV news in our town is trying to claim snow gates don’t work. Well they do, it’s like any mechanical device, when operated properly it works. It would be like me taking a shotgun back to the store and asking for a refund because though I shot at the pheasants, I never killed any. Never mind the fact that I haven’t hunted in over 20 years and couldn’t aim to save my life.

Take for instance this last snowfall. During the first snowfall, the snowplow operator nailed my driveway, this time around, not so much. It appears they dropped it for a brief moment and lifted it back up right away. Still not complaining, better then the 2 foot berm I had before. Only took me about 5 scoops to clean out.

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People, this comes down to using them properly. I have seen a ton of video footage of snowplow operators using snow gates in other communities ‘properly’ and they work. In one video the snowplow didn’t even slow down, and nailed the gate in about 10 inches of snow past a double driveway.

It’s going to take time and experience from the operators to get better at it. If you have any recommendations or complaints you can call the Public Works department at 367-8255.

In other news, the Kings Fishers are putting up a funny billboard in town. Thanks Mayor Mike for politicizing this.

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Using Winter Wonderland as an example for separation of church and state

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As I was pondering the snow plow issue and all the crazy letters to the editor of people defending the violation of the establishment clause (because, you know, none of these people would be willing to paint Jesus Christ on the sides of their vehicles, well within their 1st Amendment rights, but defend it on government property). It reminded me of a discussion about what to name ‘Winter Wonderland’ when first proposed during the Munson administration. I remember there was a brief discussion when naming it, I think one of the suggestions was ‘Christmas at the Falls’. Not sure who got involved (City Attorney?) but I fondly remember someone within city government recommending it takes on a generic term not associated with a religious holiday. Smart move.

So what does this have to do with Jesus plows? It seems there are people who are intelligent enough about Constitutional law that work for the city (or worked for them at one time) to know you can’t cross that line while using tax dollars. So Huether shouldn’t act so surprised that this has become an issue. Of course, Huether knew nothing about local government or history of it until he started to run for mayor. History isn’t his strong suit.

As for the display itself, While I think it is a great idea, I think it could be done differently. Other cities do similiar displays but they have businesses volunteer the expense and labor and use it as an opportunity for teambuilding around Christmas. Workers and their families of the businesses that donate volunteer their time to set up the display then the city foots the bill of the electricity. They do have sponsors, but city employees do all the set-up. In fact, mostly public works department workers from the forestry division begin assembling the display starting October 1st. Which I find ironic in itself. One time when I questioned the city about project TRIM and why the city’s forestry department just didn’t trim trees that residences couldn’t reach in the boulevard, they replied, “We don’t have enough staff or enough time.” But taking almost two months to put up Christmas lights, plenty of time for. Just imagine how many trees could be trimmed in that same time period?

Once again, the city proves it’s priorities towards citizens and the law.

 

UPDATE: Mayor Huether proves once again he doesn’t understand the US Constitution

christ-plow

Triple-M doesn’t realize the Lutheran School doesn’t own the snowplows, we do, the taxpayers, while they can practice their ‘freedom of expression’ on government owned property, they cannot promote a particular religion (it really is that simple). If they want to paint privately owned school property, more power to them;

But Huether seemed adamant that the plow blades wouldn’t be removed.

“We are not going to be painting over those plow blades. We will not be painting over them unless I get some Supreme Court case that says that I have to,” Huether said.

Heuther is also reluctant to suggest changes to the “Paint the Plows” program for fear of trampling on the First Amendment rights of participating schools.

“That’s one of the things we’re struggling with,” said Huether. “How do we move forward and still allow people to have freedom of expression?”

Mr. Huether may just get his wish. Watch for the ACLU to be all over this. I also suspect the NCAC may jump into this. So now the mayor is willing to waste tax dollars on Supreme Court cases because he doesn’t have a clue about our US Constitution. How did I know he was going to take this stance?

During the recent informational today, Staggers was defending the plows, calling it a ‘political issue’. No Kermit, it is a Constitutional issue. It is one thing to ‘express’ yourself about a season (winter) and it seems all the other schools figured it out, it is entirely another issue to be disguising ‘artistic expression’ with a ‘Biblical message’.

Also, last I checked, artistic expression relates to somewhat original ideas, there was nothing original from stenciling already existing designs. Someone else also expressed to me we may be opening up ourselves to copyright infringement laws with Coca-Cola.

I will give city attorney Fiddle-Faddle credit, he told councilor Staggers that it was a ‘legal’ issue, and it is, a Constitutional legal issue. And Fiddle should be well-versed in them, he has plenty of case law proving the city doesn’t understand Constitutional law.

Arterial Road Funding to be discussed Tuesday at SF City Council Informational meeting

platty-fatty

I think this graphic pretty much says it all

City councilor Kenny Anderson Jr. Plans to discuss proposed changes to arterial street funding. Anderson and Public Works Director Mark Cotter will be making a joint presentation.

This of course all stems from the 6 year anniversary (2008) of raising the 2nd penny tax to a full penny after developers and city administrators made false promises to the city council in order for the tax increase. The developers haven’t even came within striking distance of their promised 60% input. The entire tax increase was based entirely on lies and a failing economy that was evident at the time of the increase.

One proposal would be to keep the tax increase in place and simply ONLY match developers platting fees for arterial road expansion. Any additional money from the tax increase would go towards existing road maintenance, not expansion.

May explain why traffic is such a mess in our city

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IMAGE: Argus Leader Media video screenshot
That’s right folks, this is what our Principal Traffic Engineer’s desk looks like. I would think a traffic engineer (the head one) would be more organized? Guess not. And if anyone thinks I am being mean to this guy, I have been in he mayor’s office and his desk looks about the same.
I also thought municipalities had standards on how their desks should be organized.
I think the pink post it note above his computer says, “Reminder, Clean desk.”
I can hear Heath already, “I just haven’t had time to clean my desk, I have been helping Building Services enter building permits into the system.”