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Ask to watch a potential contractor's equipment in action. Be sure the plow scrapes hard-pack and ice as well as moves snow. Photo: Randy Strait, Arctic Snow and Ice Control Products

By Lindsay Babb

You can't control Mother Nature, but you can take preventative actions to minimize the impact of snow and ice. Proper planning saves a lot of time and heartache, says Randy Strait, owner of Arctic Snow & Ice Control Inc. in Bradley, Ill.

Your first criterion should be that the company's 100% committed to snow removal — rather than being, say, a landscape or construction company that's just trying to keep busy over the winter — to ensure immediate response during an event. Make sure the company owns enough of the right type of equipment and has access to enough operators to meet your community's needs in a worst possible scenario:

  • Ask to see the potential contractor's equipment or, better yet, have the company demonstrate its equipment.
  • Ask if the contractor rents or owns. A company that owns its equipment has full control over it in the event of maintenance, repair, or complete replacement.
  • Finally, find out how many people the prospective contractor employs and how many other clients it has. If possible, obtain references.
  • Contractors come in the following three types, ranging from most to least expensive:

    Snow removal company. Full-time snow and ice management including plowing and removal.

    Snowplow company. Plowing only. If your community has storage space, this option saves the expense of paying someone else to remove piles of snow.

    Snow management company. Very low rates because all work is subcontracted to third-party providers, virtually eliminating overhead costs. But you won't have any say in which subcontractor is hired to clear your roads.

    Secure insurance, long-term contracts

    A contractor that maintains electronic job tickets with GPS tracking provides some liability protection if your operation should become the target of a lawsuit. Of course, a contractor with adequate insurance from a reputable agency is the best protection.

    It's also a good idea to secure contracts ranging from three to five years. The company will become familiar with your roads and be more likely to buy specialty equipment when there's a long-term investment.

    On the flip side, you can get yourself into trouble by signing a long-term contract only to find out the relationship isn't a good fit. To avoid this, write a 30-day cancellation notice due to poor service into the contract.

    By spending the time to research and check qualifications, you'll keep snow and ice from cutting into your operation's effectiveness.

    — Lindsay Babb (lindsay@ironcladmktg.com) is public relations director for Ironclad Marketing Inc., West Fargo, N.D.

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