By Chad Frey Newton Kansan
Following a snow storm that hit last week which shuttered schools for three days, city crews went to work clearing streets.
And they heard and saw the complaints on social media from those who wanted their streets cleared.
“We do not have the resources to clear residential streets, and there has been some discussion about that after this last event,” said Suzanne Loomis, director of public works for the city.
What she means is the city does not have enough trucks, or manpower, to clear all residential streets following a snow or ice storm.
For years the city has cleared what it calls “priority routes” after a snow or ice storm, and left the bulk of residential streets alone.
“We try and get within a few blocks of everyone’s house,” Loomis said. “We do not clear residential streets. … It is infrequent that we have an event that lingers on those residential streets.”
That does not mean that city staff was sitting on their hands. Crews started working on
Crews started working on the priority routes at midnight following the storm Feb. 2.
“They take it very seriously. It is snow fighting,” Loomis said. “They do a great job. We don’t want anyone to ever think we are not trying to keep our community safe when they see their residential street is not cleared. But we just do not have enough trucks, and salt is expensive as well.”
Crews worked 12 hour shifts and there were snow clearing crews working around the clock.
As those crews were working on the priority routes, Mayor Clint McBroom had three days off from teaching and spent those days in his wood shop. He noticed two things – the crews working outside and a couple of social media posts thanking those workers.
“That was only two people who mentioned it and I know that there are more. We are thankful,” McBroom said. “It does not go unnoticed their work, and their willingness to be out there and I feel like they do it with positive attitudes. It is hard to work … 12 hour shifts. That is hard. We are thankful for that. When most people stay home, they have to get out.”
Loomis said if the city wants to add snow and ice removal of residential streets to the public works department it will require funding.
Namely, more equipment and resources.
“If at some point the commission wants us to consider residential streets, we would need to consider that during the budget process,” Loomis said.
In other business the commission:
• Approved the extension of an tax abatement for Park Aerospace at the Newton City/County Airport. The commission first agreed to the tax abatement in 2018 when the company announced an expansion of the company.
• Approved a the use of a grant to print a bicycle/walking map of the Sand Creek Trail.
• Approved a special use permit for SafeHope.
• Approved a meeting time and location change for the Feb.22 meeting, moving the meeting to noon to allow for the commission to attend a Sesquicentennial Birthday Party for the city.
• Approved a plat for Interurban Second Addition at West First and Sharps Drive, where Mennonite Housing will construct senior housing.
• The commission approved the subordination of an outstanding home loan to assist the homeowner in getting a new loan for their home. The city assisted with a $4,000 interest-free loan through a now defunct program with Hope Home Repair. The homeowner is applying for a refinance/new loan for the home, a $25,000 loan. The mortage lender is asking for the city to move to a different place in line if there is a foreclosure property is sold, so that the city would be the second entity paid any reclaimed funds.
• Learned that the Public Building Commission will be meeting to discuss new specifications for a project to rework baseball and softball facilities at Centennial Park. The project was approved in 2020, however the city has not received bids for the project that are under budget. The project will be rebid as a smaller project.