Snow plowing probably is the hottest topic in town as Billings’ foot of snow starts to thaw this week. Residents either loved or hated the new residential street plowing program. Among more than 40 emailed and mailed comments the Gazette received Wednesday and Thursday in response to our request for opinions, most were happy. They cited increased public safety, improved travel on their street and the relatively low cost of the service, which added just $8 to many annual property tax bills.

Complaints generally centered on driveways or mailboxes being blocked by mounds of plowed snow and ice, streets that were missed or on the tail end of the plowing schedule six days after the snow started. Folks who parked their vehicles on the street were displeased that they had to dig the cars out. A couple of writers worried about elderly or disabled residents who couldn’t clear the plow’s hard-packed snow from their driveways.

This is a sampling of local opinion, nothing scientific or comprehensive about it. The comments do suggest ways to improve. Next time, there should be more consistent use of equipment that reduces the risk of plowing driveways shut. Plow operators should be trained to avoid dumping driveway snow on mailboxes.

Streets that were missed on the first go-around should be plowed out as soon as possible.

Citizens would appreciate knowing when to expect snow plowing in their neighborhood. The Public Works Department could use the city website, The Gazette and other local news media to post more frequent updates. Having done the mammoth plowing job once, the city and its contractor, CMG Construction, have better information on how long each district’s plowing takes.

Last, but not least, Billings folks ought to help themselves and their neighbors. Don’t park vehicles on the street when there’s 3 inches of snow or more, the depth that triggers plowing. Look out for your neighbors. Many Billings people regularly clear sidewalks and driveways for their neighbors. If you have a snow blower or the ability to shovel snow, help out those who don’t.

Here’s some of what Billings readers had to say about this year’s expanded snow plow effort:

  • From Tom Kessler on Avenue D: I believe the $8 annual fee for plowing the streets of Billings is money well spent. It makes driving much safer and easier. However, the city, or contractor, needs to do a better job in not having the snow plowed into the driveways. I personally had to spend about an hour shoveling ice-packed snow out of my driveway entrance so I could get my car out and on the street. If they need to charge a little more to ensure this doesn't happen in the future I don't think most people would mind. But overall, a good deal.
  • From Holly Dugan: Thank you, thank you, thank you! Having our street plowed was absolutely the best! They were impossible to navigate safely before it was done and definitely worth every penny! Clearing our driveway and alleyway after the plows were done was also a small price to pay. If someone is mad because their car got covered with snow, it’s not like they weren’t asked to move vehicles ahead of time, because they were.
  • From the Mosbaughs: Based on our lot size our tax bill for the plowing was over $12 and worth EVERY PENNY of it. Thank you for the forward thinking and planning. On the negative side my husband had to spend a lot of time clearing away the berm at the end of our driveway and sidewalk. It would have been nice to have had that left open but we still feel it was a win-win for us.
  • From Jean Neyrinck: Cars parked at the curb couldn’t even open doors on the driver’s side. No access to cross streets by pedestrians. I hired someone with a snowplow to finish moving the mess so I, and my two renters could use our vehicles.
  • From Pamela Avery near Shiloh and Rimrock: I’d say the $8 per household spent on residential snow plowing is among the best investments the Billings City Council made for residents last year. Heck, I’d pay ten times that to be able to get out of my driveway after each blizzard. Now about those slick main roads and unsanded intersections!
  • Rosalee Zeier on Fair Park Drive: Thank you for plowing the residential streets. It is so much easier to get down our street. We are glad to pay the extra to have this done
  • From Alvina Buck: Declaration Avenue received no service. Mail delivery had difficulty here yesterday. Not worth $8 if we have to wait five days or more.
  • From Jesse Pritchard: The city and CMG can do better. I watched the operator and he lifted the gate to block snow going on to the driveway right at the right edge of the driveway. Problem: It piled excess snow right in front of my mailbox. All those on Sierra Granda Boulevard have the same problem, if their mailbox is on right side of drive. I didn’t get any mail yesterday and I’m sure this is the reason.
  • From Christine Howard: I would like to give a big thank you to the snow plowing crews that have worked to make Billings streets so much easier to drive on this year.
  • From Chris Nielsen: Snowplowing along Barrett Road has made it much more difficult to get out of the driveway as well as much more difficult and unsafe for all pedestrians and school children to walk to the bike pathway and (Medicine Crow) Middle School.
  • From Paul Whiting: Definitely worth $8! It's about time Billings joins the ranks of a livable city.
  • From P.R. Kelly: Waiting to plow until the snow is packed down and frozen is dangerous for drivers and walkers. No, public safety was not improved. I give the city a D-. Having spent most of my life in other states where it snows (including a North Dakota small town), never have I had a problem as I have here.
  • From Kathie Riggs: Definitely worth $8! Safety improved vastly. I kept up as best I could with entrance to my driveway but the crew was great. The gate came down as they went by and I had very little snow to remove. 2016 was a disaster. 2017 was outstanding. Kudos to the crews! Hope 2018 will be outstanding as well.

Anonymous comments included:

  • The best decision the city council has made regarding snow removal. This program has made my family's life much easier and safer. Keep up the good work snow crews!
  • From “Plowed In”: It took over an hour with my wife and me both shoveling to remove enough of the pile to get her car out. This was not “easy to shovel” snow, it was packed chunks and heavy. As she drove around the block while I drove through the remaining pile several times with my truck to make sure she could get in and out, she saw several other vehicles that were plowed in even worse than we were. What if you are 75 years old (it was tough enough to shovel that big of a pile at 58)? What are you supposed to do if you are handicapped in some way? Did the City or the plowing company consider any of these issues?
  • I am pleased with the snow plowing in the Heights. It was worth the $8 fee while I was navigating the streets yesterday.
  • The streets of Energy, Future Circle, Delta Circle, and Daystar were not plowed at all. CMG apparently thought these streets were all private drives. On the other hand, after listening to some comments on the way the streets were plowed, maybe that's good.
  • Phyllis Lane and Phyllis Circle never saw any of the plowing everyone else got, so everyone else got a little extra cost relief from our $8 contribution to the plowing fund, since we got none at all. On the other hand, we seem to be managing so far, and with luck, most will melt off before our next snowstorm hits. As for me, I’m glad to help the overall community with their snow removal with my $8 and the exercise I get from shoveling my stretch of street by hand is good for me.
  • I live on an unpaved road that gets little street maintenance attention most of the time, so I was ecstatic to see the plow out front this morning. After this last storm, there were three days when I couldn't even get out of my driveway because the snow was so deep, too much for even my all wheel drive vehicle. To me, $8 is a cheap price to pay for having the peace of mind that I will not be isolated by the winter storms. Congrats to the Billings City Council for putting the plowing program into play. Special thanks to Dave Mumford for putting his organizational skills to work to make sure that the program works for all residents.
  • I have no complaints, I would hope that they refine the process to get to all areas faster. I would pay double to get that result.
  • I would have paid the city not to plow in my driveway and mailbox! How dumb!
  • Definitely approve the $8 street maintenance fee for residential snowplowing. Don’t want to complain because the streets are now definitely easier to drive. Would appreciate it if crews were more careful about pushing the heavier snow mixed with ice onto sidewalks that are already shoveled. I know that care was given to not block cars that need to be parked on the street but I try to keep my sidewalks cleared for those who travel via sidewalks, particularly kids. I had to reshovel my corner lot.
  • Great plowing near West High.
  • The berms left in front of all driveways and mail boxes are not acceptable.
  • I have a double-wide driveway that was completely plowed shut by the grader. No attempt was made to open the drive, and I was trapped on the 2900 block of Cook Avenue. Come see the high snow in front of Meadowlark School. Even the parents trying to let their children out could not get close to the school.
  • My husband's job requires him to drive all over Billings at least six hours a day. Not only is getting around easier, but it is safer for him to be out on the roads.
  • I live on Howard Avenue and our block was plowed Saturday morning and every driveway I see here is open. Good job.
  • I live on the far West End at 58th Street West and Grand Avenue and our streets got plowed on New Year's Eve in the early morning. I'm very glad they did it, but it would have been much more effective if we had notice and could have moved some parked cars off the street first.
  • Village Lane is a mess — deep, loose snow that throws your car all around. Don't think they got to us.
  • First year in 20 that I didn't have to shovel my street myself to get out. I am so thankful for what CMG did.
  • I have been stuck on my street countless times because the streets weren't plowed. It was wonderful to leave for work and not have the fear of getting stuck. I had no trouble getting out of my driveway they did that good of a job. Thank you, city of Billings.