When winter arrives in Monticello, with it comes the hope that there will be enough snow to meet city needs for the coming year.
However, each storm comes with the daunting task of clearing snow from roads and sidewalks and keeping the city accessible to residents and visitors.
In the past, the City of Monticello established a snow removal priority list, which included removing snow from school access sidewalks as the top priority. At their December 8 meeting, the Monticello City Council voted 3-2 to completely remove the item from the priority list.
City crews will no longer clear sidewalks in town, with the exception of those on city-owned property. Also suggested for removal is the UDOT “storage lane” along Main and Center streets, which businesses and residents use for parking.
The public works department is looking at current operations for the best way to use staff and resources. City Manager Myron Lee brought the issue to the council, specifically mentioning concern with the new sidewalks in the city from the recently completed highway construction project. Lee said the number of sidewalks in town has nearly doubled, and the city no longer has the crew or equipment to continue moving snow off of sidewalks. He proposed that city crews no longer clear sidewalks or the Main and Center storage lanes.
Lee said that it takes two to three days to clear snow after a storm, with the largest amount of time taken to remove snow from storage lanes. Currently, the city crew removes snow from storage lanes from seven blocks at an estimated cost of $6,000 to $7,000 per storm.
Public Works Supervisor Nathan Langston said that there are time issues with sidewalks, as San Juan County asked the city to provide more assistance to clear intersections and help clear Woodland Way, the area around The Hideout, as well as lower Uranium Drive. He expressed concern about neglecting storm drains and fire hydrants in a storm.
Councilman Scott Frost expressed concern about not cleaning storage lanes, and the effect on traffic and business. Langston pointed out that businesses would lose the storage lane parking. Councilman Jeremy Hoggard questioned the feasibility of asking businesses to clear the storage lane, as most do not have the necessary equipment and many have no place to put the snow.
Mayor Allen suggested that the only way for many businesses is to use an independent contractor, which raises liability concerns. Frost suggested a special service district, with members paying the district and contracting to remove the snow.
Business owner and San Juan School Board Member Bill Boyle said that sidewalks may be the biggest issue, specifically sidewalks leading to and from the schools. He said that sidewalks on empty lots and those owned by the elderly may not be shoveled.
“In two weeks you’re going to have school mothers coming in and they are going to be a whole lot harder to say no to than one business owner.” Boyle said since he was the only Main Street business owner who came to the meeting, the storage lanes may not be the biggest issue. He expressed concern about school children walking to school in the middle of the road due to impassable sidewalks.
He added, “A lot of expense has been put into sidewalks, and I hate to use them only eight months of the year.”
Councilman Brad Randall said that if Main Street business owners want business from Main Street, it is their responsibility to make it accessible.
“As a business owner, I think it’s my responsibility,” said Randall.
Hoggard suggested that the city provide options for businesses that are surrounded by other properties and have no place to put snow.
Frost said business owners have some responsibility, whether shared with the city or not, to deal with snow removal in front of their business.
“I will be glad to shovel my snow,” said Boyle. “I will be glad to shovel the city sidewalk in front of my office. I will be glad to push the UDOT storage lane in front of my office. But at what point am I responsible for my neighbor on either side?”
Councilman Walter Bird said that if the City removes the storage lane from the priority list, they will have to enforce their ordinance, and make people clear their snow.
City code states it is unlawful to park on a city street from one hour after a snowfall begins until the storm is over and snow removal is completed. City code states that owners or occupants with a sidewalk along the property line are required to remove snow from the sidewalk within a reasonable time after the snow has fallen.
The code states that for a storm that occurs between 5 p.m. and 6 a.m., the sidewalk should be cleaned before 9 a.m. The code adds that it is unlawful for anyone to move snow (or dirt, leaves or any other material) into the gutter.
Langston said that the city crew is not trying to get out of work, but is asking for direction for what snow to clear. Langston said he simply wants a council decision so when people ask questions, he can refer back to direction from the council. He reiterated that the biggest issue is finding enough time with a small crew to cover all the needs.
Boyle expressed concern about discussing Main Street snow removal as simply for business owners. “Main Street is more than businesses. It’s not just going to be bad for the business owners, it’s going to show the whole town is questionable...”
Lee said the big issue is where to stop. He said the city should be fair and equitable to all businesses.
The current snow removal prioirities are school access sidewalks, fire station, ambulance garage, city office, Main Street parking lot, Welcome Center, assist county with intersections, water plant, sewer lagoons, fire hydrants, storm drains, and Main Street storage lanes from Center to 200 South.
The council wants to consult with business owners and UDOT to discuss options. Mayor Allen said the city needs to notify not only businesses in the blocks that have been cleared in the past, but other businesses as well.
Walter Bird motioned that the city continue with status quo until the meeting is held to discuss the issues involved with storage lane snow.
The motion was amended to remove school access and other sidewalks from the priority list. The one exception is sidewalks adjacent to city properties.
Jeremy Hoggard said it is bad timing to modify the priority list in the middle of snow season. Mayor Allen suggested making the change effective January 1 and holding a meeting before that time with business owners and UDOT.
City Manager Myron Lee reiterated that the council is asking for a snow removal plan that is acceptable to all parties involved and then bringing it back to the council for approval. The motion passed with Frost, Shakespeare and Bird voting in favor of the change, and Hoggard and Randall against.
A meeting with UDOT and business owners was held on December 15, after the press deadline.