COEUR d’ALENE — Tim Martin isn’t drifting off into dreams of massive snowfall this winter.
His prediction flies in the face of forecasters expounding on the probability of a big snow year. Really big. (As a matter of frigid fact, Press Meteorologist Randy Mann reported Monday that the weekend storm dropped 8.8 inches of snow on Coeur d’Alene, topping the 8.7 inch historical average for the entire month of November.)
Martin, head of the city of Coeur d’Alene’s streets and engineering department, doesn’t buy it.
“I think we’re going to have an average winter,” Martin said Monday.
Average is about 70 inches.
Martin and his street crews — who each work 12-hour shifts when the white stuff flies — can expect to plow the entire city eight times and the arterials 14 times, because that is what average entails.
Each major snow event costs the city $8,500 for fuel, and the city expects to spend $20,000 to re-equip its trucks and plows with chains, steel plates and bits that wear down during the plowing process.
After a more furious than average winter last year, in which about 100 inches covered thoroughfares, the city is making an effort to arm itself with extra tools to ensure motorists can safely navigate streets this winter, Martin said.
Step one: getting cars, campers and boats off the streets.
“Our biggest challenge in a big snow year is keeping the roads wide, and not losing lanes,” Martin said.
The street department will work closely with city police code enforcement to promptly tag and remove illegally parked vehicles and trailers.
City code also requires residents and business owners to keep the snow they plow on their property, and to keep their sidewalks shoveled. That prevents people from walking on slick streets alongside traffic.
Unmaintained sidewalks were a problem last winter, Martin said.
An ordinance change this year allows police to criminally cite for unshoveled sidewalks.
“We made it more reasonable and gave it a little bit of teeth,” Capt. Dave Hagar said.
The latest law gives people more time to shovel, but doubles down on those who refuse.
“People who simply don’t want to do what’s in the code,” Hagar said.
The city does not plow alleys, and crews try to stay off two hills in town that are designated as sliding hills.
Boyd Avenue between Ninth and 10th streets, and Lost Avenue between 14th and Dollar streets are blocked off and not maintained, so children can sled there.
“They are the only two left in town,” Martin said.
The City Council and neighbors support the venture.
In an effort to cut costs and salt use, the street department uses a liquid de-icer it calls beet juice because it is made with beet extract and salt, which works better than costly magnesium chloride.
Both mag chloride and regular salt often end up kicked or splashed into ditches or road shoulders. Because it’s stickier, the beet extract stays on roads, cutting ice at temperatures below 15 degrees, when mag chloride quits working.
With this week’s earlier-than-usual snow, city crews had sanders and de-icers out by 4 a.m. Monday. Once the snowfall ends — it’s supposed to get warm again by midweek — crews will begin their annual leaf pick-up, Martin said.
Beginning Nov. 13, crews will begin gathering leaves for its annual leaf fest, which lasts 12 days. The city collects around 1,600 tons of leaves, disposing them as field compost.