Winter is only a third of the way through, and Ammon has already plowed more snow than during all of last winter while rarely using its towing policy.
The city has declared two citywide snow events so far this winter. The first stretch of plowing began Jan. 2 and made it to every street in the city in 13 hours, while the second event on Monday took 16 hours to clear the city. City Administrator Micah Austin said snowplow operators have been out working on the main streets and responding to one-off incidents almost every day since Christmas.
“The hope is that during the full-day snow events, the arterials have been plowed the night before, and we can move into the neighborhoods with all our plows working at once,” Austin said.
Ammon’s snow removal policy, which was modified last year and reapproved by the city council in October, allows the city to tow cars that are left on the street in the way of snowplows “without notice at the owner’s expense.” Despite that allowance, the city has only towed four cars in January. Austin said the city employees make efforts to reach out to the drivers or work around the vehicles as much as possible before towing.
To organize snow removal efforts, the Ammon Streets Department divides the city into seven zones. Within each zone, the team of city workers begins by clearing the major arterial roads before working their way to smaller connecting roads and, eventually, narrower neighborhood streets. The city rents some specialized equipment to help with snow removal but does not subcontract with companies to help with the process and only staffs the snowplows with city employees.
Even within those seven zones, each neighborhood may be prioritized differently depending on the weather and the demands of the residents. Before the city began plowing on Monday, resident Keree Anderson commented on the city’s Facebook announcement to ask if they could clear her neighborhood early because her car was stuck. She said the city got to her before she left for work Monday morning and that she was mostly happy with how the city has cleared the snow over her 11 years in Ammon.
“When I lived in the other house, they would block driveways sometimes, and I would spend an hour shoveling a big old pile of snow. But you live and learn and do what you need to do,” Anderson said.
Austin said the city had fielded multiple calls Friday about wind blowing through some neighborhoods and creating sudden snowdrifts that needed to be cleared and employees were working to address those areas.