COLUMBIA, Mo. - As the first snowfall of 2017 starts to dwindle, many residents are still waiting for their streets to be plowed. And they may be waiting a while.
Columbia Public Works officials say they only work residential streets during business hours after first and second priority routes are passable and if there is more than four inches of snowfall. If there is more than four inches of snow, public works will work around the clock until all roads are passable.
But the residents in Wellington Villas, off Mexico Gravel Road, are not happy. Despite being in city limits and paying city taxes, they said their streets never see a plow.
"We couldn't get out of our neighborhood for five days during the last ice storm," Shelly Prange said.
Prange said she has contacted her city councilman about the issue.
"He said that Columbia is just growing so much that they can't cover it and they don't clear his roads off either," Prange said. "It's just kind of unacceptable that they use (growth) as an excuse."
According to the Barry Dalton with Columbia Public Works, they are responsible for about 1,300 lane miles with only about 25 trucks.
"In this type of event, we concentrate on the priority routes," Dalton said.
The city also has what they call "priority neighborhoods", however it is just for snow events.
"That is when a neighborhood association or homeowners association applies to be a part of that program," Dalton said. "What it means is they agree to organize the people on their street to move their cars off the road during an event and they contact us and let us know when their cars have been moved. Once we've completed the first and second priority streets, we go to the residential streets being with the priority neighborhoods."
Prange said she'd like to see the city place a higher importance on ice events.
"What happens when we get an ice storm like that," Prange said. "We'd like to at least see the city come through at least once and lay salt down. You would think that would above and beyond the four inches of snow (rule). That's a totally separate issue."
Prange also lives on a hill and near a cul-de-sac, a type of road Dalton said is difficult to plow.
"During the ice, our four-wheel drives were useless," Prange said. "Our elderly neighbor down the hill had a medical emergency during the last ice storm and the ambulance and the crews could not get down to her so they had to carry her up the icy hill."
Prange said the ice also affected mail delivery. She said her husband is a veteran and the Department of Veterans Affairs will only mail medications.
"We didn't get mail for four days because of the ice," Prange said. "It said it was out for delivery on Friday morning and we couldn't get it until Wednesday because the mail truck was not able to get to us until Wednesday."
This winter, the city has started a pilot program for third priority routes. According to their website, public works is piloting new optimization routes to facilitate vehicle access to first and second priority routes as well as residential neighborhoods.
So far, there are only 32 streets on that list. Dalton said they were decided on based on their proximity to first and second priority routes and are being used to determine if it's easier for drivers to get to higher priority routes using these newly added roads. He said there's a possibility more will be added next year, or some may be scraped from the list.