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If you think local grocery stores are busy when snow and ice are in the forecast, just imagine what’s happening at the City garage.
By the time the first flake of snow hits the pavement, Wes Ritchie and his crew within the Public Services Division have already spent multiple hours ensuring more than 30 trucks have been filled with fuel and outfitted with salt spreaders and plows. They’ve halted work on potholes, sidewalks, and other street maintenance projects and adjusted their work schedules to ensure plenty of manpower is available throughout the weather event. While most of us are hunkering down, they’re charting their routes and preparing for whatever Mother Nature sends our way. During the most recent snow earlier this month, the street crew went home at noon, then reported back at midnight to work throughout the night.
“Each truck is assigned an area and we stay on that route until its clear,” said Crew Chief Greg Cotter. “Once we get our route clear, if somebody else is struggling or having issues, we go and help them out. And somebody is in the dispatch office – it might not be the same person all the time – but somebody is always there so we have constant communication.”
Preparation typically begins 24 hours in advance, Greg said, adding that he’s seen his share of bad weather during his 25 years on the job. The worst was in the 90s, when heavy snow caused power outages and limited water supplies. This year has been mild in comparison, but there have been a few challenges.
Rain in the days proceeding a snowfall makes it difficult to pre-treat roads, he said, because salt will simply wash away. Not knowing when bad weather will arrive also creates challenges, he said, adding “that’s an educated guess on my bosses part. They make those decisions.”
Main routes throughout the City are cleared first and special attention is given to “problem areas” that don’t receive much sunlight and, therefore, tend to get slick quickly. These include 11W between Bristol Regional Medical Center and CVS, a section of Volunteer Parkway near the old Friendship Ford dealership, a section of King College Road near Greentree Drive and a BTES substation, portions of Raytheon Road, and mountainous residential areas.