Revisions to the plan take into account lessons from a brutal winter

Dover officials are hoping the coming months don’t bring the same kind of snow-filled weather that descended on the region last winter, but if Mother Nature has other plans, those in charge of the city’s response say they’ll be better prepared.

Last week City Manager Tony DePrima and Public Services Director Scott Koenig briefed members of city council’s Safety Advisory and Transportation Committee on an improved plan to remove snow from city streets as efficiently as possible during and after major storms.

They said the revisions to the city’s standing snow plan came after a series of discussions among their staffs about what the city could have done better during the big snows of last December and February.

When those storms hit, the city struggled to move the mountains of snow from its streets before motorists drove on them, causing thick layers of bumpy, pot-holed ice to form on major routes. Too hard to be broken up by plows alone, the ice pack stayed in place for days on thoroughfares like Loockerman, State and Division streets.

Beyond downtown, many residents complained that their streets, especially those in subdivisions, weren’t plowed by the city in a timely fashion, if they were plowed at all.

DePrima said those and other storm-related issues were thoroughly reviewed after the snows melted and tempers cooled.

“We had a big debriefing,” DePrima said. “A lot of the ideas that came out of that debriefing session have been added to this plan.”

First and foremost, the revised plan lays out a comprehensive timeline of events that can be activated by the public services manager when two or more inches of snow are forecast.

The timeline begins with the deployment of three dump trucks to lay sand and salt on city roads once a coating of snow or ice has accumulated. Citywide plowing starts when accumulation hits four inches, or sooner if the public works department so orders. As accumulation builds, the city will put its snow removal workers on 12-hour shifts as needed.

The plan designates the highest priority to State Street, Governors Avenue, Loockerman Street and Division Street.

Special provisions are outlined for clearing large amounts of snow from Loockerman in order to allow downtown businesses to open. If necessary, the city will shut down Loockerman one block at a time and use front-end loaders to load the snow into dump trucks and haul it to Schutte Park.

Koenig, the public services director, said the plan also outlines more clearly the rules for removing snow from subdivisions, particularly those developments with roads that are incomplete and have yet to be officially recognized by the city.

In those cases, Koenig said, the developer who owns the property is responsible for handling snow removal, which usually means hiring a contractor to plow the streets.

“We’re going to be reminding them of their obligation that they need to get out there within 24 hours of the end of the snowfall,” he said.

The plan also includes a “Do Not Plow” list of privately owned streets and subdivisions, as well as apartment complexes and large commercial properties, like the Dover Mall.

Some of the streets in the dozen housing developments on the list are there because the roads haven’t been completed, Koenig said. In those cases, manholes, drains and curbs that stick above the unfinished street surface can damage city plows and sometimes injure workers.

The revised snow plan also nails down what city streets the state Department of Transportation will plow or help plow—something that wasn’t entirely clear during last winter’s storms.

“Dating back to the 1950s, there’s been repeated [agreements] between the city and DelDOT. The Memorandum of Understanding is inconsistent,” Koenig said.

Now, DelDOT is taking full responsibility for Route 13, Route 8, Governors Avenue, Saulsbury Road, Kenton Road and North Little Creek Road, among other routes. DelDOT also has agreed to help clear State Street at the city’s request.

“I would say our relationship with DelDOT has improved,” Koenig said.

Council members seemed pleased with the revised snowstorm plan.

“This looks like a hell of a lot better plan than last year,” said Councilman David Bonar.

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