Hilliard Northwest News

Snow crews not cowed by rough weather

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Larry Lester (center), right-of-way services manager for Hilliard, said the city's snow-removal crews have done "an excellent job" keeping streets clear and dealing with other challenges this winter. Lester is flanked by maintenance technicians Matt Kirkman (left) and Josh Smith.

Frequent snowfalls and subzero temperatures have kept Hilliard's 25-member service department busy this winter, but workers have performed well, according to Larry Lester, right-of-way services manager for Hilliard.

"Our guys are resilient and have really stepped it up a notch this season," Lester said. "Our crew has done an excellent job."

Lester, who has worked for Hilliard since 1999 and once worked for Dublin's service department, said he has seen other harsh winters.

"But this one ranks right up there," he said.

The frequency of storms and the subzero temperatures has made keeping the streets clear a challenge, Lester said, and high winds add to the challenge.

"The snow blows back across roads we've cleared and we have to go back and cover the same roads," Lester said.

When that happens, road crews need more time to get to the areas of the city with the lowest priorities, such as cul-de-sacs. The city's snow and ice control policy is posted at hilliardohio.gov/live/city-services/snow-ice-control.

Though service employees are doing well, Lester said, the cold weather has had an effect on both personnel and equipment.

"We've been encouraging them to eat right and dress right .... reminding our drivers to wear layers, keep a blanket in the plow and carry bottled water, too," Lester said.

Drivers typically work 12-hour shifts, but sometimes work as many as 16 hours on a shift.

"But we try to minimize that," said Lester, who drives a plow during heavy snowfalls.

Lester said subzero temperatures also wreak havoc on equipment.

"We had a few issues with hydraulics (malfunctioning)," he said. "It's hard on the equipment but I think we've fared better compared to other cities."

If there is an upside to the deep freeze, Lester said, it is the city's reduced usage of salt.

"We've used less salt because it simply is not effective at such extremely low temperatures," Lester said.

Hilliard budgets for about 2,000 tons of salt each winter.

In January, about 800 tons were used. The city has 700 tons on order for the remainder of the winter, which should be sufficient, Lester said.

Lester estimates the city uses about 80 to 100 tons of salt during a typical snowfall.

In addition to driving plows, service workers are responsible for such tasks as "re-lamping."

The cold has caused frequent failures of street lamps and traffic lights, requiring crews to make repairs, Lester said.

Potholes also are on the to-do list.

"We address those as quickly as we learn about them," Lester said.

In some instances, full repairs are immediately made; in others, a temporary fix is made until permanent repairs can be made later.

Crew members also clear city parking lots and repair guard rails, street signs and hydrants struck by sliding vehicles.

"It's more common in the winter," Lester said.

Lester said he appreciated the residents who have helped by keeping safe distances from plow trucks and parking cars off the street when possible.