Winneshiek County's winter-road maintenance policy may be revised to include procedures for weather emergencies.
The Winneshiek County Board of Supervisors held a public hearing on the proposed policy change Monday morning. A second reading of the ordinance is scheduled for Monday, Oct. 29, at 9:30 a.m. in the supervisors' Boardroom.
"Once a winter weather emergency is designated, the county reserves the right to selectively reduce service to a road or roads by not plowing or treating (for slippery conditions), or delaying substantially the plowing and treating of a road or roads," the proposed policy states.
For the past two winters, the supervisors approved, through a resolution, The winter-weather emergency provisions only impact the county's Class A roads, which include paved and gravel roads.
Snow is not plowed on the county's Class B (minimum maintenance) or Class C (gated) roads.
Depends on storm
Every storm is different, according to Bjerke, depending on wind direction and type of precipitation.
"This (revised policy) gives us some flexibility to prioritize," he said, referring to which roads are plowed or treated first.
Depending on drifting and other variables, it could take the same amount of time to clear a half-mile of road as it would take to plow four miles somewhere else. When that's the case, Bjerke said county employees would get the least difficult stretch open and return to the troublesome spot after they've made some headway.
If this winter is mild like the one before, Bjerke said the new emergency policy wouldn't be noticed by the public.
The county's entire winter-road policy is available to the public at the county auditor's office or the county engineer's office at the Winneshiek County Courthouse.
posting certain roads to inform the public they would not be plowed. That covered 11 miles of road, or 22 "lane miles," according to Winneshiek County Engineer Lee Bjerke.
"The Board got a lot of dissatisfaction (from the public) with that ... every road is important to somebody," he said.
The new winter-weather emergencies section is an attempt to improve the county's policy by making snowplowing procedures more clear, Bjerke said.
The revised policy would give the road department more leniency in determining where to best utilize county resources, depending on the type of storm, he explained.
The proposed policy gives the county engineer, or his designee, the power to declare a "winter weather emergency" when a winter storm event creates a condition where normal winter roadway maintenance, under the county's policy, is not improving road conditions as expected.
The designation is based on, but not limited to, "snow fall amounts, freezing rain, wind, wind chill temperatures, chemical and abrasive material availability and equipment and personnel availability."
The criteria for determining what roads will be impacted by reduced service during an emergency is based on location of private residences, presence of livestock, bus routes, detour lengths, power lines, bridge restrictions and efficiency of the county in performing winter maintenance.