Snowplows are the talk of the town |

Snowplows are the talk of the town

William Ferchland
Dan Thrift / Tahoe Daily Tribune/ A Caltrans snow thrower works Highway 50 on Tuesday.

After not seeing evidence of a snowplow on his street until Tuesday afternoon, David Moreno wondered if he should have voted for a November ballot item regarding a snow-removal tax.

In past years the plows would have been by his Al Tahoe neighborhood house numerous times but the defeat of Measure R, a proposal to double a yearly snow removal fee to $40 with annual escalators, had Moreno pondering if he should have voted for it instead of leaving it blank.

“It just seems to me, ‘OK, we didn’t vote the money in, maybe they’re putting the screws on us and giving us bad service,'” Moreno said.

Several people complained about the lack of snowplow service on their roads and surrounding areas in a belief operators were either nonexistent or slow to remove snow from a winter storm that began Saturday afternoon.

“I would like it to be knowledgeable why they only came by today,” Moreno added. “Maybe there’s a problem. Maybe we should have voted in the money they needed. What’s the deal?”

South Lake Tahoe City Manager David Jinkens said the measure had nothing to do with plow service and commended the actions of employees.

“We provide the best service possible to the people. The people out plowing the streets, they care a lot about the community,” Jinkens said.

For the first time in his tenure as city manager of South Lake Tahoe, Jinkens instituted the Emergency Operating Center at city council chambers on Sunday for better coordination and communication between agencies. He cited the culmination of inclement weather, heavy traffic, downed trees and power outages as a reason for opening the emergency center.

Jinkens will be involved in a debriefing of the process later today.

In addition, he will look into why several city employees, including snowplow drivers, didn’t report to work. He cited a need to “assess that situation” and the “facts and circumstances” surrounding it.

South Lake Tahoe actually increased the number of its normal snowplows in use, from eight to its entire fleet of 12, when the call was made for snow removal Monday at 1 p.m., said Jan O’Brien, management analyst for the city.

Priorities were given to city streets that needed to be clear for ambulances, fire engines and bus routes. All 12 operators were given 12-hour shifts. O’Brien guessed the plows would work until midnight Tuesday “if necessary.”

Holiday traffic added to the slowdown because of vehicles parked on the street and the weight of the snow which mixed with puddles and streams of water accumulated from previous rain downpours.

El Dorado County snowplow operator Bill Hamilton, who works the Golden Bear Trail area, began his plowing duties Saturday night.

“Monday night was slow-going because of the heavy snow. You gotta try and get it down to the pavement at least,” he said.

Traffic on Sunday and Monday made plowing from Echo Summit to Twin Bridges on Highway 50 – typically a 20-minute, round-trip route – a three-hour chore, said Mark Dinger, spokesman for Caltrans.

“We couldn’t keep it plowed because we couldn’t get there,” Dinger said, noting that a dozen of the department’s vehicles were out. “It makes it harder for us to plow. We couldn’t make as many runs.”

Scott Magruder, public information officer for Nevada Department of Transportation, was concerned with black ice on roadways and cautioned drivers to slow down.

“All of our roads were in fairly good shape,” Magruder said.

Christmas Valley resident Ed Brauner toured roadways in the city and county. The former public works director for the city of South Lake Tahoe thought plow drivers did a good job.

“I think that anytime there is a snowstorm like this and things pile up, people need to understand that it takes awhile for the snowplows to get around, so it takes patience,” he said.

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