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Clean sweep: Snow and ice removal costly, but effective

Cleansing December’s snow and ice from the city’s roads was an expensive measure, but one residents are grateful for.

A 24-person crew worked continuous 12-hour shifts to keep the city’s roads drivable during the storms. With six sanding, de-icing and plow trucks, the team was able to clear 570 lane miles of arterial, collector and residential streets during a nine-day time span, Public Works director Marwan Salloum said.

The men and women were given a standing ovation by the audience and certificates of appreciation from the city council at the group’s Jan. 6 meeting. There, Salloum recognized them for their hard work and efforts traveling to and from Federal Way and their homes in areas such as Enumclaw and Gig Harbor during the winter weather.

“The efforts that they’ve put forth during this event were amazing,” Mayor Jack Dovey said.

The team plowed high-traffic streets such as South 320th Street, 1st Avenue South, South 348th Street and Pacific Highway South before moving to residential streets. At times, the crew spent hours refining these arterials and were ready to begin their work on secondary routes, only to discover more snowfall had made freshly cleared roads unmanageable once again. Residential streets were not forgotten though.

Bob Dockstader lives in Twin Lakes. He’s resided in Federal Way for 34 years, but has never seen the city’s response to snow and ice as well-managed as it was during the latest snow storm, he said. He is impressed the city had the foresight to purchase additional equipment, create a plan to address the weather and implement the plan without a hitch, he said. He is also happy to see his tax dollars spent wisely, he said.

“In past times when we would get snow, the street would effectively be impassable until the temperature warmed up to melt it,” Dockstader said. “This year, low and behold, twice they came by and plowed our street. We could get around very easily.”

Clearing the streets required 2,600 hours of labor — 1,600 of that being overtime — and a continuous flow of materials. Approximately $68,000 was spent on labor costs, including the overtime pay, Salloum said. Another approximately $100,000 was spent on sand, de-icer and salt. Sand was transported from Auburn. Salt was delivered from Seattle and de-icer came across the mountain passes from Eastern Washington.

A total of 1,000 tons of sand and salt and another 35,000 gallons of de-icing liquid were used to keep the streets maneuverable for motorists and pedestrians, Salloum said. The total costs of the operation have yet to be tallied, but are expected to exceed $200,000, he said.

Funding to cover the snow and ice removal operations will be taken from the Public Works department’s budget and is money that was not utilized elsewhere in 2008, Salloum said. A total of $20,000 was appropriated for such emergencies in the department’s 2008 budget. The department will not be asking for additional funding from the city to cover the costs, he said.

The effort could not have been as successful as it was without the trucks and equipment the city council approved for purchase in July 2007, following the previous winter’s storms and the city’s inability to properly respond to them, Salloum said. The council also approved the purchase of a 1,000-kilowatt generator that will soon be installed at the community center.

The action was taken in preparation for future storms, but council member Mike Park said he did not imagine the equipment would be needed so soon and thought the purchase would not likely be fully recognized within 10 years.

“This year Federal Way just got on top of things and did the job the way it was supposed to be done,” Dockstader said.

By the numbers:

• 9: number of days crews dedicated to clearing the roads

• 570: total lane miles of roads cleared

• 148: lane miles of arterial streets cleared

• 57: lane miles of collector streets cleared

• 365: lane miles of residential streets cleared

• $100,000: amount spent on materials, not including fuel, used

• $20,000: amount allocated in 2008 budget for such storm removal efforts

• 1,000: in tons, the amount of sand and salt used

• 35,000: gallons of de-icing liquid used

• 2,600: number of total hours put in by road clearing crew

• 1,600: number of hours logged as overtime

• 24: number of crew members working 12-hour shifts during the storms

• $69,000: total labor costs

• $200,000: an approximate estimate of how much was spent, including materials, labor and fuel, to clear the streets

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