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With up to 8 inches of snow forecast for Thursday through Saturday, city and CMG Construction plowing, sanding and hauling crews will see little respite from completing their 12-hour rounds keeping Billings streets relatively clear and driveable.

“It does start to stress on them,” Dave Mumford, the city’s public works director, said Tuesday morning after CMG crews finished clearing Area 3, south of Broadwater Avenue, and began in Area 2, south of Poly Drive. “With this storm coming up, it could be two weeks straight with no days off.”

When they’ve completed clearing streets in Area 2, CMG crews will continue in a clockwise direction: Area 1, north of Poly Drive and south of Highway 3; Area 6, the Heights; Area 5, downtown; and Area 4, the South Side. During the late December snowstorm, CMG crews started in South Side neighborhoods because the streets are wider and thus generally more accessible.

The city's street maintenance supervisor, Bill Kemp, said CMG crews performed well in his neck of the woods.

“They came by my place at about 10:30 or 11 (Monday) night,” he said. “With the reduced amount of snow (during the most recent storm), they left the berm around 3 inches. This second time around, they knew what turns to make.”

CMG plow operators were offered a little coaching between snowstorms. Mumford said that suggestions included getting their blade closer to the ground — “as close as they safely can,” he said — and getting as close to the curb as possible. Gates installed on CMG plows to keep snow away from driveways are generally working well, Mumford said.

“This time, they’re also not rolling 14 inches of snow” as plow operators were during the last storm, he said. “This is a much drier snow.”

Mumford said no accounting for this second round of residential plowing has been completed. If the decision is made to send private crews back out into residential neighborhoods during the upcoming storm, this year’s budget for private plowing — $420,000 — will be depleted, and Mumford will have go before Bruce McCandless, acting city administrator, or, for a larger request, the city council to authorize dipping into street maintenance reserves. That will cover residential plowing through the rest of the budget year, which ends June 30.

With any luck, the snowfall will end well before the fiscal year runs out.

“The reserve fund isn’t unlimited,” Mumford noted, “but it will get us through this.”

On Tuesday night, city crews will begin hauling the snow piled up downtown. They were out Tuesday morning plowing and sanding arterial streets and plowing the city’s trail system, Mumford said. About 30 city employees are split into two shifts — 8 a.m. through 8 p.m., and 8 p.m. through 8 a.m.

Mumford reiterated basic requests that make it easier for crews to finish their work. When crews are working on neighborhood streets, residents are asked to keep their vehicles off the street. They’re also asked not to fling or blow snow on the streets. And they shouldn’t drive through berms, which can damage vehicles and means additional work for street maintenance workers to repack piles of snow.

“We try,” Mumford said, “to make it less onerous on everybody, and we’ll keep working to try to make sure the community is safe to drive around in.”



City Government Reporter

City reporter for The Billings Gazette.