Following a snowstorm on Jan. 19, some residents raised concerns about how long it took for road crews to clear residential streets.
The area received anywhere from eight to 12 inches of snow over the course of less than 48 hours. This combined with frigid temperatures and blowing snow, created a real challenge for area road departments. The area hasn’t seen a storm like this in nearly a decade.
In some communities, crews can clear residential streets quicker because those streets are the only responsibility they have. This is the case in Coventry Township, Springfield Township and Lake Township, where the main roads are maintained by the county or the state.
Last year, New Franklin ended its contract with the county in a cost saving effort, so now the city crews are responsible for all roads in the city.
In larger cities like Akron and Green, crews are responsible for clearing all the roads, which can sometimes lead to longer wait times for trucks to move into residential areas. Akron also has an agreement with the Ohio Department of Transportation to maintain the highways throughout the city.
When a large snow strikes, Akron first clears the highways, main routes, secondary routes and then finally the residential routes. While Green doesn’t maintain any of Interstate 77, it has main routes, secondary routes and then residential routes.
Upset residents took to social media following this most recent storm in both Akron and Green voicing concerns about the lack of plowing on residential streets. The number of complaints in Green was minimal compared to Akron, which saw hundreds of comments. In Akron, many were upset the main streets were still snow covered days after the storm was over.
Akron Deputy Director of Public Service Chris Ludle isn’t afraid to admit the city dropped the ball on this winter storm. He said officials knew the storm was coming as the city talked with AccuWeather the day before the storm started which told the city to expect anywhere between 15 and 20 inches.
Ludle said Akron was able to pre-treat some of the roads, but the focus shifted to maintaining the highways once the snow started.
He said the city had a lot of new employees, who didn’t have much experience plowing snow.
“We do have very good people who work for us in the winter,” Ludle said.
The storm also made it difficult because of the blowing snow and cold temperatures where salt wasn’t as effective Ludle said.
“We are meeting to see what to do different,” Ludle said.
Following the storm, the city of Akron released an apology about the way the streets were cleared.
“We apologize to the Akron community for the inconvenience and frustration our response has caused,” the statement read. “The level of service we provided has fallen short of what our residents rightly expect.”
Ludle said the city also heard many complaints about people seeing plows driving with the plow in the air. He said this issue is being addressed. The city also brought in seven contractors to help clear residential streets after officials realized how long it was taking.
The Summit County Engineer’s Office also offered a helping hand to Akron.
Summit County Director of Administration, Government Affairs Heidi Swindell said James Hardy, Akron's chief of staff, called her and asked if the county had any available snow plow trucks and drivers to help clear residential city streets. He had already contacted the executive's office law department to see if it was legally possible for the county to plow city streets in an emergency situation.
“The Law Department and our dedicated attorney from the Summit County Prosecutor's office determined it would be permissible,” Swindell said. “While that was happening, I called Engineer Brubaker and the Director of Public Services to see what we could do.”
Swindell said that Engineer Brubaker concurred that it was an emergency situation and directed the Public Services Department to determine how the county could help. The county sent seven plow drivers to the south side of the city and then drivers went to Akron Ward 8.
“They worked well past their normal 4 p.m. quitting time for the day shift,” Swindell said. “Akron provided the salt for the county trucks and will be paying the labor costs.”
In Green, Mayor Gerard Neugebauer said the most recent storm created some challenges for Green.
“The storm last week had several challenges based on the rate and amount we received, of course, but also drifting, making it a difficult storm all around for clearing roadways,” Neugebauer said. “Our crews worked around the clock from Saturday through Monday and did an excellent job in keeping up with the storm, and were able to clear all neighborhood roads within 24 hours of the snow event ending.”
Green Service Director Valerie Wax Carr said the city’s focus during snow events is to clear mains and ensure hills and bridges are salted, then they focus on secondary roads and neighborhoods.
“Our crews follow specific routes to ensure all roadways are cleared within 24 hours following the end of the snow event,” Wax Carr said. “With most snow events we clear all roads in well under 24 hours, but when we are hit with a significant snow event spread out over the time period we had (Jan. 19 and Jan. 20), it inherently just takes longer.”
City officials said crews were able to clear all the roads within 24 hours of the snow event ending and continued with cleanup the following two days.
“Wet, heavy snow is not our friend when it comes to mailboxes,” Wax Carr said. “The weight of the snow pushed against the mailboxes is what causes them to be knocked over.”
Wax Carr said the plows are not hitting the mailboxes, but that the city will repair or replace mailboxes destroyed by the city’s snow plowing efforts.
“We ask that residents contact our Service Department to report their mailbox damage,” Wax Carr said. “We had crews out this past week replacing mailboxes and will continue to do so until all are repaired or replaced.”
City officials in the meantime said if mail is not being delivered to request the Post Office hold it for pick up.