Mixed reviews on snowgates after first major snowstorm hits Sioux Falls

I missed the first major snow event, as the storm was hitting Thursday night, I was sitting on the runway at the SF airport waiting for them to plow it so we could takeoff to Vegas. Sunny and 70 most of the weekend.

Had to chuckle though, I noticed one of the payloader plows at the SF airport has double snowgates on the front end loader. Good enough I guess for the airport just not for the citizens of Sioux Falls.

I have heard mixed reviews today about snowgates. A loyal DaCola reader is in the testing area this year, and his parents were last year. he shot video, but I have not had a chance to upload it yet. He did tell me though that they worked wonderful in his neighborhood but did notice they didn’t bother dropping them in intersections and by curb sidewalks (which would be a great use for them).

Snowgate advocate, Stehly went out with a friend to do some ‘snowgate’ watching. As she followed the operators she noticed they went very slow (under 5 mph) and sometimes would actually stop mid driveway, and only get half of the inlet. She also experienced one operator claiming the gate broke (brand new) and he literally sat in his snowplow for an hour just waiting for someone to show up and fix it, then decided to take a break. LOL.

Stehly noticed several times that the drivers were not maintaning a consistant speed, and seemed like they were not properly trained to run the snowgate or just did not care. This is unfortunate, because if the gates are to be tested properly, they have to be operated properly. I have often suspected some ‘mild’ sabotage going on.

Stehly called the head of the snowgate department at Henke Manufacturing and asked him about how they were operating the snowgates, he said, “The drivers should be able to maintain a consistant speed while operating the gates (around 20 MPH).” In other words they shouldn’t be stopping and starting up.

There has also been talk that the street department wants to test snowgates another year. Enough already, the election has already been postponed 16 months. Let’s vote on them already.


#1 Pathloss on 02.25.13 at 11:51 am

At last report, the city has 6 plows. All have snowgates. A private contractor has 25 plows, none with snowgates. Seems the answer is find a new contractor.

#2 testor15 on 02.25.13 at 2:40 pm

The city deciders must think we are not paying very close to their poor efforts. By the time of the reports we will be able to show the total incompetence of there efforts.

#3 Poly43 on 02.25.13 at 3:52 pm

The mayor has dropped enough hints in his last few Indoctrination sessions. That message seems clear. In March, 4 people will put forth their recommendation based on “performance.” Huether, Cotter, Turbak, and Huber. As far as I’m concerned the verdict is already in. They will advise against them and have a full year of the media gobbling up whatever BS they give them. Snow haters have a long hard pull in front of them. Good luck.

#4 Poly43 on 02.25.13 at 3:55 pm

These keyboards are really small on these I Phones. That’s snowgaters, not snowhaters.

#5 Detroit Lewis on 02.25.13 at 4:51 pm

I’m a Snowhater! Bitches!

#6 Joyfull on 02.25.13 at 5:03 pm

Just a note from this tax payer…It seems in other years when we had big snow events my street was cleared in a very timely manner. The event last week took almost two full days before I saw a plow on my street. I’d rather worry about the snow on the end of my driveway than not being able to drive down my street to get somewhere. I will vote no on snow gates!

#7 scott on 02.25.13 at 5:35 pm

perhaps the next mayor will relieve huber of his duties.

#8 Detroit Lewis on 02.25.13 at 5:37 pm


#9 PrairieLady - Gayle on 02.25.13 at 6:31 pm

Is there a site where you can see where the snowgates are in use? I am amazed how I do not have all the junk at the end of the driveway as I have had for 28 years and my street is clean, but I have no idea if it is because of snowgate….probably…

#10 Poly43 on 02.25.13 at 7:57 pm

This is unfortunate, because if the gates are to be tested properly, they have to be operated properly.

Plowing at 5 mph when they could be doing 20? This snowfall was perfect for a real test, yet it seems they are going to make sure they fail. Trust me, the call is in. Theresa has a long, long road in front of her. Too bad because she has been a Great advocate.

#11 Testor15 on 02.25.13 at 9:45 pm

When I first moved into my house, the snow removal was immediate. As time has moved on, so have the plows. I went out hours after the snow was over and cleaned the street in front of the house. The damn plows did not show up until hours later.

The city street cleaning operation has steadily gone downhill since Hanson was in office. It was never as bad as this past week.

#12 Johnny Roastbeef on 02.25.13 at 10:18 pm

I’m a snowbirther!

#13 OleSlewFoot on 02.26.13 at 9:26 am

There is probably a learning curve for the plow operators. So they go slower. And are they letting different operators try them each snow fall? Then you never get over the learning curve hump with the little snow we have had. I assume the operators are worried about the front edge of the snow gate hitting the driveway curb if they do not lift it in time. Hence a slower speed than normal.

#14 TP on 02.26.13 at 10:32 am

Off topic but, I was in Omaha recently and noticed that instead of sending out press releases warning you to clear your sidewalk of snow and ice by a deadline, the Mayor there established a hotline citizens could call in on if they had a concern about snow removal on a street or get information about when their street would be plowed.

Must be nice to get treated like customers instead of law breakers, and have a Mayor who wants to improve the system instead of assuming he knows best about everything.

#15 Craig on 02.26.13 at 11:20 am

Joyfull: “Just a note from this tax payer…It seems in other years when we had big snow events my street was cleared in a very timely manner. The event last week took almost two full days before I saw a plow on my street. I’d rather worry about the snow on the end of my driveway than not being able to drive down my street to get somewhere. I will vote no on snow gates!”

Based upon your statement, I’m sure you must live in a snowgate test period and you have personally verified the delay in cleaning your street was due to snowgates causing plows to drive exponentially slower right?

Oh you mean that isn’t the case and you are just finding some random unconnected excuse to whine about snowgates? Why not just say so?

You may as well complain that the plows are running Firestone tires this year instead of the Goodyear tires they had in years past, therefore you are voting against snowgates. Or perhaps you should complain instead of the Caterpiller plow that was used on your street a few years ago now they are using a John Deere plow which means you are voting against snowgates.

Sure neither of those reasons make any sense – but neither does your complaint about delays. The two issues are not connected since there are only a small number of snowgates being used. If you want to complain about snow removal in general by all means do so, but please don’t confuse the issue of slow snow removal with that of the actual snowgates.

#16 rufusx on 02.26.13 at 12:01 pm

Be happy you don’t live in Watertown. Was up there on business the day after their last big storm – got stuck twice – on major arterial streets. The only “streets” that had been touched – AT ALL by any plows (more than a foot of snow BTW) were the state and federal highways. After driving from main road to downtown to Hwy 212 on a street been plowed, I found the end of the street blocked by a pile of snow about 4 feet high and 8 feet wide. The only way onto the highway was to go through a private business’ parking lot – which had, BTW, been completely cleared – driveways and all. Heard a couple days later that the Watertown mayor had to jump all over the streets department to get out and do their job.

#17 Angry Guy on 02.26.13 at 1:31 pm

“The drivers should be able to maintain a consistant speed while operating the gates (around 20 MPH).”
I call horsecrap on that one… I dare you to find ONE plow, with or without gates, going that fast on residential side streets in SF…

#18 Detroit Lewis on 02.26.13 at 1:41 pm

AG – You have to realize, that statement was coming from the manufacturer. I have seen them used at that speed in videos though, but they were on roads that the driveways had an extra lot between them.

#19 Craig on 02.26.13 at 5:08 pm

If they did drive 20, they would windrow the snow out so far it would spread onto the sidewalks. You think people complain about the ridge of snow at the end of their driveway… just imagine how bad it would be when the plow covers the entire sidewalk.

I haven’t exactly timed it, but on my street I’d guess they are doing 8-10mph. On the wider snow routes they might average 15, but 20 probably doesn’t happen too often unless the goal is to increase profits to a contractor who is in the curb and gutter business.

#20 snoplow on 02.26.13 at 10:53 pm

As one of the city snowplow operators you hold contempt for you should know some facts. Some of you complain about the time increase to get to your home, do you realize the city grows yearly and the amount of people doing the job do not. There are many factors as to when we are allowed to begin zone 3 snow removal, all of these have bearing on when your street gets plowed. The snow gates are slower than conventional plowing methods, with that being said most of us will vote for the gates as the slower rate of progress equals more money for us as we are paid hourly. This was also a 6 inch snow event, gates are said to work well up to 4. 8 to10 mph is about the average max speed on residential streets (about 5 to 8 for the gates) you have to bear in mind not all manholes or water shutoffs are flush or below street level, motor graders have nothing to take the shock of hitting one of these objects, the grader weighs more than 36,000 pounds and when you hit such an object it hurts. Part of the reason the gates are slower is the speed that the actual gate itself, you may think just speed the hydraulics up, Not that simple, gates weigh over 600 lbs and have shear pins to protect both gate & blade to much speed in the gate shears pins. Curbside mailboxes are another obstacle because of gate height when up. Mrs Stehly commented small openings at the end of driveways, snow depth,moisture content, & proximity of other driveways are all factors, The manufacturer claims a Reasonable opening, not everyones driveway will be fully open. F.y.I. the opening blog about the airport the loader being used does not have snogates, called a snow dozer it is a box to increase the amount of snow that can be pushed the wings that you thought were gates are in fact fixed and do not move. I hope I’ve cleared up some confusion.

#21 l3wis on 02.26.13 at 11:01 pm

snoplow, same shit, different day, heard all of these excuses before. Snowgates work. Don’t believe me, why does Henke continue to sell them? Inferior products are not on the market long. Actually, I cannot believe I even engaged you, your comment was enough to prove how little you know, and by the way, our taxes pay your wages, and you provide a public service. THAT IS YOUR JOB! If it bothers you that you have to provide a service to me for the taxes I pay, come join the private sector with me. Your whiny ass would not last 2 days.

#22 l3wis on 02.26.13 at 11:01 pm

And yes, that was Nasty!

#23 snoplow on 02.26.13 at 11:16 pm

Don’t believe I said they didn’t work. Your taking what I said out of context and arriving at your own conclusion. The concept has been around for awhile. If they are so perfect why aren’t there more cities & municipalities using them? I never said they didn’t work I simply implied that they have limitations and that people like you need to understand that. also I am a local small business owner and do quite well in the private sector.

#24 l3wis on 02.26.13 at 11:23 pm

Huh? Every city that has used them (properly) raves about them. SP, no offense to you, but taxdollars are meant to be spent on public service. We want you to plow our streets, we want the PD and FD to protect us, we get it, and I hope you are compensated well, and have a great retirement, I want that for you. Public service is not easy, and frankly not very thankful. I know this, more then you will ever know. But stop fighting the little man. Because we are in your court.

#25 Poly43 on 02.27.13 at 8:19 am

This was also a 6 inch snow event, gates are said to work well up to 4. 8 to10 mph is about the average max speed on residential streets (about 5 to 8 for the gates)

Seems like an account from someone in the know. We know it will take about 25% longer to clear all the streets. How much more would it cost the city per snowfall based on SP’s numbers? Small change when lined up next to things like the 23 million allocated for sprucing up the so-called gateway into SF from I29 and Russell to the new EC. The whole of that 23 million allocation is nothing short of putting lipstick on a pig. And now all of a sudden huether,turbak,cotter, and huber want to turn frugal????

Ain’t buy in’ it

#26 Testor15 on 02.27.13 at 8:23 am

L3wis and Snoplow both of your comments are spot on for multiple reasons. There is a lot of frustration with the way the city street department management has failed the people / customers and the employees. So both of you are right, but in different ways.

We could discuss TIFs, land management, EC, corporate giveaways, audits, nepotism, lousy buying decisions and more as root causes of our current frustrations.

Because our little town wastes so much money on cute little showpieces needing to be maintained after being built, we have nothing left to actually operate the town. Remember capital versus operation budgets. This causes the city to not have the funds to properly hire / pay people or buy / rent equipment for a ‘growing’ town.

Does Huber actually know how to operate a piece of road equipment? This lack of funds and weak management brainpower appears to not allow the ‘leaders’ to actually train operators.

Snoplow, I for one am so glad you brought up the many points about the piss poor conditions you have to deal with, really. The past several mayors and councils have left this infrastructure of this town in terrible shape. You as a city employee have allowed us to take a look into the terrible job Huber and SubPrime have been doing for you and us.

Everyone must remember Sioux Falls street department management bought the inferior snowgate style / brand with the most problems, to run these tests. So what should we expect? Poor test results? Unhappy customers? Bad press? Ya think?

If the dozens of snowgate towns and cities across the USA who are happy with snowgates prove they work, do any of our current ‘leaders’ go to any of these towns to find out how they actually work? From what we hear, not so much. Snoplow you have given us great information and we appreciate it.

So Snoplow thank you for the work you do, we only wish the city management understood the job they are assigned. L3wis, like always, you have opened the deep wound of frustration we the people of Sioux Falls want closed. The incompetence of our city management shows everyday. This issue isn’t about only about snowgates, but the pompous nature of the towns ‘leaders’.