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CMG Construction plows

CMG Construction plows clear snow on Washington Street on the Billings South Side on Friday, December 29, 2017.

CASEY PAGE, Gazette Staff

The New Year arrived with Billings blanketed by more than a foot of new snow — a snowfall that triggered the first test of the city’s new residential snow plowing plan.

Sometime on Wednesday, the city’s private snow plowing contractor, CMG, is expected to finish plowing residential streets in the Heights, the last district to be plowed, public works director Dave Mumford said Tuesday morning. Then CMG crews will follow up on calls that some streets were missed on the initial go-around. The South Side was the first district plowed Friday when snow was still falling fast, so there may be some more plowing needed in that neighborhood, Mumford said.

With up to 17 inches of snow in the forecast, the Billings Public Works Department notified CMG on Dec. 27 that it planned to activate the plowing plan on Dec. 29. Mumford said the advance notice allowed CMG to call in employees who had been laid off from construction jobs over the winter.

Starting Friday, CMG crews worked around the clock plowing residential streets. With 1,500 lane miles of residential streets in the city, plowing is a big job.

Billings city crews worked on arterial streets, starting their plowing late on Thursday, Dec. 28 with 19 city employees working a 12-hour shifts. Then 19 other workers worked 12 hours, continuing round-the-clock street clearing into Tuesday. The city contracted with Knife River to truck away snow the city crews plowed into berms on arterials.

Mumford didn’t have cost estimates yet for the city or CMG plowing. But he noted that this snowstorm was the first expense for the new residential plowing fund that was established at the city council’s direction this year. As the council directed, $445,000 is dedicated to plowing residential streets that haven’t been plowed in past winters. The council also allocated $90,000 to purchase gates designed to reduce the risk of driveways being plowed shut.

This money can be used only for residential plowing; any remaining funds at the end of winter will be retained in the fund and used to reduce street maintenance district assessments for 2018.

If the year’s end snowstorm is the only one that triggers the residential plowing plan, Mumford said, there will be money left in the dedicated fund to use next winter while reducing fees on the November 2018 property tax assessments.

At the time the council approved this plan last June, the residential snowplowing was estimated to raise street maintenance fees $8 for the year on a 10,000-square-foot residential lot.

So Billings, what kind of service did you get for your fee of $8 or so?

Was it easier or harder to get out of your driveway and get around the neighborhood this past week, compared with snowstorms in years past?

Do you think public safety was improved or not?

Tell us what you think by sending an email to speakup@billingsgazette.com or sending a letter to Voice of the Reader at The Billings Gazette, P.O. Box 36300, Billings, MT 59107. Please keep your comments brief, letters must be no more than 250 words to be printed.

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