County snow removers absolved of neglect |

County snow removers absolved of neglect

Greg Risling

El Dorado County will not be responsible for reimbursing a vacation home customer unable to reach his rented house due to unplowed roads during a blizzard last winter.

Lake Tahoe Accommodations owner Jim Morris had sought $1,875 to recoup his losses from reimbursing a client’s rent on an Alice Lake Road house last December.

“This court finds that the county employees worked long hard hours to clear the roadways during this unusually heavy and unexpected snowstorm,” Judge Jerald Lasarow stated in a written opinion. “Therefore, judgment must be entered in favor of the county.”

During a small claims court hearing on Aug. 29, Tom Halvorson, the county road superintendent, testified that weather forecasts on the storm that began Dec. 20 called for only 3 to 4 inches of snow.

Instead, the snow had dropped about 2 feet after 12 hours and left 4 to 6 feet of snow before it passed two days later.

Many county roads were impassable for four days or more, including Alice Lake Road. Morris refunded his client’s money after the man was unable to reach the destination and rented a room in a local hotel.

Lasarow, a municipal court judge, presided over the small-claims matter. He said part of his decision was based on a lack of evidence that other properties were affected.

Morris, after the ruling, said that, even though he only focused on the Alice Lake Road site in the court hearing, other customers were also affected.

“I had plenty of problems,” Morris said on Friday. “I had to move people, and other people couldn’t get into (other rented properties). I had to give people adjusted rates and free stays later.”

He added that many other clients stuck in homes for three or four days left with a very poor satisfaction rating for their stay at Lake Tahoe.

“I’m disappointed,” Morris said about the ruling. “But the main thing was to draw people’s attention to it. We need to expect more out of our government. We are a premier destination area, and we should know how to do snow removal.”

During the court hearing, Halvorson said his crews would not have had any problems if last December’s storm lived up to forecasts. At the time, the size of his crew was reduced by four illnesses and three people out on disability leave. The storm itself was one of the larger snow episodes in the area in several years.

“We were caught in a situation where we had an exceptionally heavy snowfall in a short period of time,” he said, also on Friday. “We did not have our full staff of extra help on line and we had people out sick. We were a victim of circumstance.”

Halvorson said most of his extra help employees for this winter are on line and supervisors “have almost all of them up to speed.”

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