Traffic and Streets Division Manager Dan Erickson. Photo by Kirsten Laskey/ladailypost.com
By KIRSTEN LASKEY
Los Alamos Daily Post
Snowstorms like the one that occurred New Year’s Day used to be the norm, Traffic and Streets Division Manager Dan Erickson remembers. But things changed. He said it’s been about 30 years since Los Alamos received four feet of snow.
So when Los Alamos was hit with a massive storm Jan. 1, it generated a huge reaction among residents. A good deal of that attention turned to the roads.
Erickson explained the County’s plan of attack for clearing streets, which is the Snow and Ice Control Plan. According to the plan, workers first address streets that are considered highest priority: County bus routes, school bus routes and main arterial roads. Second priority is given to collector streets and any streets on steep hills, especially steep hills near intersections. Third priority is given to everything else.
To get these priorities addressed, Erickson said the County is broken into zones. Zone one includes the downtown and the Eastern area, zone two is designated for the Denver Steels and Western Area, zone three includes the North Community and Quemazon, zone four is identified as Barranca Mesa and North Mesa and Zone 5 is White Rock.
Zones are not ranked; there isn’t one zone that is cleared before addressing the next. Erickson said they are simply used to break out crews.
“It’s always good to have everything broken into zones and having priorities so everything isn’t hap-hazard,” Erickson said.
The Traffic and Streets crew has 24 employees and typically responds first to any snow event. Erickson said the Snow and Ice Control Plan gives authority to call any resources in the County to help with the snow removal efforts. This typically includes Parks and Recreation, Facilities as well as custodial staff. He said they can have up to 70 people working on clearing snow.
It is not easy work. Erickson said crew members will work up to 16 hours and sometimes get started well before the sun rises.
“I would stand our snow removal up against any other in the state, even the country,” he said, adding his crew is dedicated to serving this community and providing a high level of service.
“Everyone on this crew wants to serve the community,” Erickson said. “They take a lot of pride in what they do. They have been working very long hours away from their families.”
If a snowstorm is predicted, he said crews will be scheduled. If the weather takes a sudden turn, police dispatch will call.
Erickson added in the past a state of emergency has been declared to free up state and federal money for snow removal. The last time an emergency was declared for a snow event was in the 80s.
“This doesn’t happen all that often,” Erickson said.
Although a state of emergency wasn’t declared with the most recent snowstorm, Erickson said New Mexico Department of Transportation donated two snow blowers. Additionally, five contractors were hired to help with snow removal efforts. One of the contractors purchased a snow blower that allowed them to collect more snow quicker.
It would be great to have this piece of equipment in the County’s fleet but Erickson pointed out with flat budgets and the status of the County receiving gross receipts tax from the laboratory an uncertainty, it won’t be happening soon.
“We would love to have this equipment … but it’s a large financial commitment,” he said.
In fact, Council will consider making a budget revision for snow removal during its Jan. 29 regular meeting.
Erickson said the budget, not including overtime, is $127,000. To cover the emergency contract and materials, Council will be asked to approve a budget revision of approximately $425,000 that includes approximately $50,000 for overtime.
Now that the snow is receding another feature has been left in its wake around town: potholes.
Erickson said the only way to properly fix a pothole is with hot asphalt. Unfortunately, right now the supplier is closed. He added a mix can be used but there is a chance it will not last long term.
He further pointed out some of these potholes aren’t on County-owned roads. It’s the New Mexico Department of Transportation’s responsibility fill the holes marring Trinity Drive and other state roads in town.
Still, Erickson said as soon as crews can be pulled from snow clean up, they will be assigned to fix potholes.
It’s not just potholes the County is dealing with, he said, but also damaged gutters, downspouts and leaking roofs.
“We just have limited resources,” Erickson said.
There are things the community can do to help. Things such as residents all parking on one side of the street to allow snow blowers and plows to easily access streets or parking off the street, if possible. Erickson also encourages everyone to have good tires on their cars.
The interior of one of the County’s snow plows. Photo by Kirsten Laskey/ladailypost.com
Material County workers spread on roads to eliminate ice and snow. Traffic and Streets Division Manager Dan Erickson said this material is more environmentally friendly than ice melt. Photo by Kirsten Laskey/ladailypost.com