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Maintaining Charlotte streets
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Maintaining Park Ridge streets
Pouncing on the precip

This Midwestern department runs like clockwork during a heavy storm event, thanks to careful planning and years of experience.

Park Ridge, Ill., doesn't mess around when it comes to snow removal. It has plans—and backup plans—to tackle any amount of snow.

Located just outside Chicago and averaging about 38 inches of snow each year, the suburb's public works department maintains 121 miles of streets, including some state roads.

Though the 52-person department is broken down into many of the divisions typical to public works, it's all hands on deck when a snowstorm hits.

“Today we have 32 guys out plowing,” says assistant public works director Wayne Zingsheim of a 7½-inch snowfall that fell Feb. 13.

That snowfall required Zingsheim to use “plan B,” which tackles storms that include blowing and drifting snow. The city's 14 coverage areas, which are routed manually, include both arterial and residential streets. “And then, when we get everything cleared, we'll tackle the municipal parking lots and some other public areas,” he says.

Zingsheim keeps detailed records of every snow event. Over the 2005–2006 season, he used $85,000 of his $98,000 budget. If a season exceeds expectations like this year has already, he can tap into a $52,000 contingency fund, which comes from the city's general revenue budget line.

In a town of about 37,000 people, Zingsheim says that though he and his team do their best to clear streets and handle all public works problems, “I get brutalized no matter what I do—good or bad.” His primary goal is to clear the arterial streets; after 2 inches of snowfall, residential streets are plowed. And, to make it easier for residents to get their cars off the streets so they don't get plowed in, his team plows alleys after 4 inches of snow falls.

Salt in the wound

Drivers bear the brunt of residents' snow woes.

Dave Yost spends most of his time working for the water and sewer division of Park Ridge, Ill., a Chicago suburb. But on heavy snow days, he's a snow plow driver. Yost drives a pickup truck in one of the city's 14 wards; each ward takes about four hours to plow.

Though a typical workday is eight hours, Yost sometimes has to extend his day (and earn overtime), depending on the snowstorm. The public works facility has a nap and break area for drivers who have to work a long shift or who work far from home, as Yost does.

Sometimes, Yost doesn't like plowing.

“It can be hard on the eyes to drive for so long, and the residents don't always appreciate what we're doing,” he says.

That's made apparent by the residents who throw shovels or snowballs at drivers, whose plows cause snow to cover cars or block driveways.

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