The agencies that receive the majority of complaints about a lack of snow plowing are trying to educate the public about designated responsibilities. …
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The agencies that receive the majority of complaints about a lack of snow plowing are trying to educate the public about designated responsibilities.
It takes a team effort to remove snow that has piled up high after a big storm. Douglas County, the Highlands Ranch Metro District and local homeowners are all expected to do their share, but sometimes there is confusion about plowing priorities and the criteria for mobilizing in certain locations.
Residents living in cul-de-sacs, for example, might not know they are last on the list, resulting in frustration for homeowners and a stream of angry phone calls for Douglas County’s Public Works Department. The difficulty of maneuvering in a small area takes considerable time, and an absence of through traffic renders Highlands Ranch’s 700 cul-de-sacs a low priority.
Drivers are instructed to make one pass through a cul-de-sac and place the snow between driveways, said Randy Teague, director of operations for the county’s public works department. He acknowledged that it takes more work for property owners to make it out of their driveways, but clearing all cul-de-sacs completely would take days.
Douglas County is responsible for plowing roughly 2,400 miles of roadway, with major arterials being addressed first. Teague said the major roads take precedent because vehicles travel at higher speeds and the ice poses an increased safety hazard.
It is often the residential streets, however, that get the most attention from the people of Highlands Ranch. Side streets are third on the priority list, which means the snow can become packed down, icy and rutted in the hours or days before the plows arrive.
Kathy Hahn, who lives in the Westridge area, said the streets around her home are consistently ignored by snowplow drivers.
“Even with a foot of snowfall, sometimes we don’t see them at all,” she said. “Then, I’ll see them on busy roads that are just wet and don’t need it.”
Fines are assessed to property owners who fail to clear snow from their driveways and sidewalks within 24 hours of a snowstorm. Hahn suggested that the county be subject to the same penalties when its plow drivers do not clear residential streets.
Teague says a different plan is created based on the circumstances of each storm. Douglas County does not plow residential streets if officials expect the snow to melt within 48 hours.
The average snow storm produces roughly 25-50 phone calls, Teague says, with some applauding the efforts of drivers. However, a storm that hit the area around Christmas resulted in 60 complaints. The county appreciates both good and bad feedback because it enables them to tailor their approach in the future, Teague said.
The Highlands Ranch Metro District clears the way at fire stations, parking lots at area parks, and 112 miles of sidewalks, including pedestrian routes to schools, but only after three or more inches of snow has fallen and it’s likely to remain on the ground for more than 24 hours. The district promotes awareness of responsibilities each fall.
“Every year with the number of new residents still moving into Highlands Ranch, or people who have lived here only a short time, we receive many calls asking about snow removal responsibilities and the services provided by Douglas County and the Highlands Ranch Metro District,” said Sherry Eppers, community relations manager for the HRMD.
In early 2009, Castle Rock installed devices in its plows that use geographic information system mapping data to track their location as they wind through the streets. The system even provides residents with an estimated time frame for when the plows will reach areas that have not been cleared yet.
Visitors at crgov.com can also see where the plows have been with a system that utilizes a “bread crumb” trail, or a series of dots on a street map. Castle Rock officials introduced the innovative device to help improve communication with the public and reduce snow removal costs.
For more information on county snow plowing operations in Highlands Ranch, visit douglas.co.us/publicworks/Snow_and_Ice_Removal.html or call the public works department at 303-660-7480. The Highlands Ranch Metro District can be reached at 303-791-2710.
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