HELENA – Helena’s recent snowstorms have been a test for the city’s new policies on plowing streets.
This year, city leaders cut back on emergency snow routes – reducing the total number of miles included from about 50 to about 10. They also prohibited drivers from parking on those routes during certain hours, any time two inches or more of snow is expected. Any vehicles left on a snow route during those times can be towed.
So far, public works leaders say most people are complying with the new requirements.
“A lot of the snow routes, the cars were moved,” said streets superintendent David Knoepke. “We had a couple of stragglers that we had to take care of, but it really helped the plow drivers and the public to get those cars off.”
Knoepke said the city had to move seven vehicles after Wednesday’s snow. Leaders began with a “soft rollout” of the policy, towing the vehicles just around the corner.
“Any other future events that there’s snow on the ground that needs to be plowed and that we’ll need to tow, those will be going to the tower’s yard at the owner’s expense,” Knoepke said.
The city created the new rules so plows would be able to cover the entire road surface on snow routes.
“Part of the challenge we had last year with all the snow is we had those big berms from when the snowplows went by, next to the parking areas,” said Knoepke. “Well, if we get the cars moved from the streets, then that snow can go up onto the boulevards or get piled up next to the curb. Then it’s easier for the public to get in and out of those parking spots.”
In addition to the new rules for snow routes, no trailers, recreational vehicles or boats can be parked on any public streets in Helena between Nov. 1 and April 15. Those vehicles can also be towed. Leaders said that rule was implemented because having to plow around those stored vehicles narrows the available roadway.
City leaders are also reminding homeowners that they are responsible for clearing off the sidewalks adjacent to their property.
Helena code enforcement officer Greta Dige said there have been some issues this year, because there have been a series of small storms instead of a single larger snowfall.
“If people haven’t removed the snow from the sidewalks, which then melt and are turning to ice, there are conditions currently out there with the new snow that there’s ice underneath,” she said.
In residential areas, snow must be cleared from the sidewalks within 24 hours of when snow stops falling. The city has a “countdown clock” on its website to show when owners must shovel. It also provides a tool for neighbors to submit complaints if they see areas where the sidewalk isn’t cleared.
With more storms expected in Helena in the coming days, Knoepke said he’s thankful for residents’ continuing cooperation.
“Overall, I think we’ve received really positive feedback, and we’re encouraged that the city is getting behind us in this endeavor,” he said.
You can find a link to Helena’s full snow and ice policy, including a map of emergency snow routes, on the city website.