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The city digs out

NORTH LIBERTY– North Liberty Streets Department crews worked nearly around the clock to keep traffic moving during and after last week’s record snowfalls.
According to Streets Superintendent Don Colony, six city workers kept four large snowplows and one endloader busy for two days to clear the 10-plus inches of snow that fell between Tuesday and Wednesday, Dec. 8 and 9.
During the snow event, the six Streets Department employees cleared snow from 7 a.m. to 12 p.m. on Tuesday, and returned at 4 a.m. Wednesday to put in another 19 hours before they rested. They went through 720 gallons of fuel, 50 tons of salt and 250 tons of sand.
North Liberty’s snow ordinance, which prohibits parking along any city street in the event of two inches or more of snow, helped make the crew’s job easier, said Colony.
“The ordinance really has been excellent,” said Colony. “It allows us to do two passes and to return after the cars are moved; we’re not zig-zagging out of cars like we used to.”
The ordinance enables the North Liberty Police Department to write citations to those who do leave their vehicles on the street, and to tow cars if necessary. North Liberty Assistant Police Chief Diane Venenga estimated the department wrote at least 50 warnings for violation of the ordinance. Since this was the city’s first time imposing the ordinance this year, City Administrator Ryan Heiar called for the police department to issue warnings, rather than actually cite offenders.
“This is the second year the ordinance has been in effect, and the plan all along was to give warnings for the first snow fall of the year,” said Heiar. “Unfortunately, this turned out to be one of the biggest snowfalls we’ve seen. But we wanted to stick with the plan, so people could have a reminder that we do have the ordinance in effect.”
Each 12-hour period that a vehicle remains on the street during a snow emergency constitutes a separate offense. The ordinance also gives the city the option to tow vehicles at the owner’s expense.
“In most cases, we will try to issue a citation, but if there are repeat offenses, or if the Streets Department requests to have a vehicle removed because they can’t get through, cars will be towed,” Heiar noted.
No North Liberty cars were towed away this time, but if people continue to violate the ordinance, they may find their vehicles towed away by Holiday Towing, added Heiar.
While the ordinance helped making clearing snow easier, it did not keep everyone off the streets, Colony said, and that caused additional and unforeseen problems.
“The biggest thing was the night the newscasters and Department of Transportation said travel was not advised, people were still traveling and getting stuck in drifts. We had to plow the streets so tow trucks could get to those cars, and two of our own trucks got stuck in the process. It resulted in four pieces of our equipment being tied up for two hours trying to get these cars out,” said Colony. When the city’s equipment is occupied in that manner, it closes the entire street down and takes the crews away from the job at hand.
“So when they say stay home, people should stay home. It’s dangerous out there,” he said.
Though the major clearing has been done, street crews will continue salting and sanding streets, moving the snow off the streets in order to widen them, and hauling piles of snow away from cul-de-sacs and intersections to increase visibility.
“We would like to thank the people that did pull their cars off the road,” said Colony. “That really helped us out a lot.”