PAOLA — Miami County is taking a new snow removal policy for a test drive this season.
County commissioners adopted a revised winter operations policy that identifies priority roads to be cleared first during snow and ice storms. These roads are listed as Level 1 routes.
The majority of commissioners spoke in favor of making heavily traveled routes used to access highways a priority over other roads and rural subdivision streets in the county.
J.R. McMahon and Jeff McGuire with the Road and Bridge Department presented the proposed priority routes to county commissioners during their Jan. 8 study session. Commissioners voted 4-1 on Jan. 15 to adopt the plan.
The notion first surfaced in late 2018 after the first major snow and ice storm of the season drew criticism from some residents about the poor condition of 223rd Street and Metcalf Road, two routes that carry heavy traffic.
McMahon and McGuire talked about the multiple waves of that prolonged storm which made snow removal extremely difficult. After a second band of snow, some roads that had already been cleared looked as though they had not been touched, they said. McMahon said most winter snow storms do not follow that pattern.
Commissioners Rob Roberts, Danny Gallagher, Phil Dixon and Tyler Vaughan spoke in favor of the plan to first clear Level 1 routes, which are identified in the proposal as 223rd Street, from Woodland Road to State Line Road; Metcalf Road, from 215th Street to 335th Street; and Old KC Road, from 363rd Street to the city of Paola and from the city of Paola to 223rd Street.
McMahon emphasized that having this plan in place doesn’t mean snow plows will not be working on other roads at the same time in other parts of the county — it’s just that trucks assigned to areas with designated Level 1 roads will tackle those routes before moving on to other roads in their assigned areas.
Commissioner George Pretz said during the Jan. 8 study session he didn’t see a reason to change what has worked well for the past 15 years. He called the storm an anomaly and said policy shouldn’t be changed based on that one storm.
He also noted that John Brown Highway west of Osawatomie was not on the Level 1 list.
Chairman Roberts acknowledged Pretz’s concerns but said he would like to see the plan put into effect for at least the remainder of this season.
“I support the change in the policy with the caveat that as we go through this winter — and see how many snow events we have and how well that policy has or has not worked — the commission and the staff be willing to re-look at that should we need to, because there might be things that show up after four or five snow events that (indicate) we maybe need to add to the Level 1 roads (for example).”
Pretz cast the dissenting vote in the 4-1 decision.
“We went through this last week. I was against in then and I’m still against it,” Pretz said before the outcome. “I don’t think one road is more important than the other (when removing snow), and I just can’t accept the fact that one road or one life is more important (than another). I can’t accept it.”