There’s good news here. Wednesday’s story on the weeks-long lack of snow removal along Minot’s pedestrian corridors and river crossings prompted action. Overnight, snow was removed from paths on the 3rd St. NE Viaduct and Broadway Bridge. Work remains in other parts of town, but it’s obvious a directive to do better was delivered and answered.
Prior to publishing the original story, I reached out to the City with a request to comment. That response was not available at the time of publication on Wednesday but was provided yesterday. Additionally, I reached out to elected officials for their comments. Council Members Podrygula and Burlingame provided responses. Read all the responses below.
Official Responses to Pedestrian Snow Removal Failures
Derick Hacket, City of Minot, Public Information Officer
Thank you for reaching out.
As far as sidewalks, we of course have this outlined in our City Council-approved snow plan in section 4.11
The plan states “Snow will be removed on City owned or maintained sidewalks with skid steer loaders as soon as city forces have completed the snow removal on City streets.”
As many motorists would tell you, we haven’t completed our efforts on the streets. Many streets that are adjacent to some of the routes you outlined are still at a lane and a half. That’s also the case on far busier routes. Our short-staffed crews continue to work around the clock, following our snow plan, to try to remedy our City streets’ narrowness by hauling and widening roads since our first snowfall on Nov 10. When snow and wind come around, we have to start back at square one. Here is a log of the work from Nov 10 to Dec 22 that was included in the City Manager Report at our latest City Council meeting agenda.
Much of our time has been dedicated to trying to create more room to push snow if/when we get another event. The winter is still young, after all.
We understand there is some anxiety with the snow-covered routes, both on the roads and on the pedestrian pathways, we are working through the plan as approved and hope to get to many of these sidewalks you listed in the next 24-48 hours, weather permitting, of course. My office alone receives several messages a day requesting help with widening roadways, improving the sight triangles at intersections, or removing mounds of snow in now very tight cul-de-sacs. We try to be as responsive to those requests as possible.
There are a few things we’re working on to improve the timeliness of the sidewalk portion of our snow plan. Such as:
- Public Works is working on an RFP to see what it may cost to contract this effort out
- Community Development and our engineering staff are consolidating our map of city-owned sidewalks with the other public agencies’ sidewalks, so there is little question on who is responsible for which area.
- We’re also developing a pedestrian snow routes list and map to help prioritize the clearing of sidewalks.
Our street team has been running nearly around the clock for two months now. While we understand the desire to clear everything as quickly as possible, the fact is there isn’t a microwave button for us. We can’t do it in an instant, although we try. We appreciate the community’s patience as we worked through the holiday season to ensure safe, drivable, and walkable conditions.
Council Member Stephan Podrygula
… the situation is embarrassing and needs to be remedied. The photographs you show amply and accurately document the problem, which is of particular concern on bridges and very busy main thoroughfares, where a pedestrian has no place to go and faces serious risk in using the roadway. As someone who used to walk to work for perhaps a dozen years, believe me, I sympathize with the plight of the pedestrian.
In specific response to your request for comment, I would say the following: the City needs to obey the ordinance on snow removal, like anyone else; we should be a good neighbor and be sure our own house is in order (e.g., before we undertake enforcement actions against property owners who don’t clean up their sidewalks); ideally, we should be setting a good example for other property owners (encouraging them to clean their sidewalks, as many already do).
On the other hand, it is important to recognize some mitigating factors: we live in a very car-centered society, where pedestrians and bicyclists typically receive little consideration (although this is starting to change); we have had some particularly heavy snow falls and challenging wind conditions; in terms of doing the most good for the most people, it really does make sense to prioritize the snow routes, hills, and major thoroughfares (as our snow removal plan outlines); our resources, both in terms of personnel and equipment are limited; and the hard work of our employees needs to be recognized and not taken for granted.
Council Member Scott Burlingame
The removal of snow from sidewalks in Minot is an issue I have worked on for years, and as the newest member of the City Council, it is my intention to address this issue aggressively.
The truth is, a safe, healthy and vibrant community must be one that is walkable. It is unacceptable for any sidewalks, but especially a city sidewalk, to be impassable for long periods of time.
The city must do better.