City snowed under with plowing complaints 

click to enlarge Unplowed residential streets are at least good for cross-country skiers. - MATTHEW SCHNIPER
  • Matthew Schniper
  • Unplowed residential streets are at least good for cross-country skiers.

The Feb. 1 snowstorm was barely underway before Colorado Springs' city government got its first requests from citizens for snowplows, records show.

During the next 48 hours, as up to 18-20 inches of snow fell across the city, the storm triggered at least 36 pleas for help — and that's only those sent via email. A separate reporting system logged more than 200 complaints from Feb. 2 to 9, and yet another city log — at 150 pages — contained citizen complaints about plowing and potholes, as well as other issues.

The last time the city faced a similar challenge was in late December 2006, when back-to-back storms brought up to 29 inches of snow with high winds that caused drifting and road closures, according to a 2008 city news release recapping past storms.

The recent blast ate up $437,000, or more than 40 percent, of the city's $1 million budget this year for storm responses, $78,000 of which went to overtime for an undisclosed number of city workers. The rest was spent on materials used to combat ice and snow.

By Feb. 3, the city was struggling to keep up with main roads but started clearing neighborhood streets in response to messages like this one, from a resident in the Research Parkway and Union Boulevard area:

"I'm trapped in my home! I have not been able to leave for work, store, pharmacy (need to drop off a rx) or anything else. I tried to venture out in my Honda accord late yesterday and got stuck in my own neighborhood three times."

Five days after snow began to fall, the city started racking up even more complaints from residents.

From a resident who lives southwest of Woodmen Road and Union:

"Snowbird Drive, a school bus route, has not been plowed even once since the 1-2 Feb snowstorm, despite assurances that the city is now focusing on clearing side streets."

Another from east of Patty Jewett Golf Course:

"I have issue with Linda Lane. The driver made one pass and left chunks at the intersections and the south side of the street. Linda Lane is heavily used by parents of James Irwin School and has many elderly residents."

But not everyone felt the storm's impact. When introducing a discussion item at a City Council session on Feb. 9, Council President Merv Bennett joked, "While I was suffering in the Florida Keys in 80-degree weather, I understand something happened here."

By that time, Feb. 9, the city had cut its response from about 40 trucks to 16 and focused on specific complaints.

Streets manager Corey Farkas told councilors that city trucks made three passes over some residential roads, the equivalent of driving 9,000 miles. He added the city can't afford to gear up for such gigantic snowfalls, because they're uncommon.

Mayor John Suthers noted it was "hilarious" to notice how complaints changed after the storm subsided — from pleas to plow residential streets to complaints that plowed snow blocked driveways.

Farkas told Council the storm helped grow a new crop of potholes, which are evident across the city.

Since the Feb. 1 storm, the city reports, crews had filled 2,003 potholes as of Mon., Feb. 22 — 265 of them based on citizen requests.

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