City plows ahead on snow-emergency readiness

By: Eric Czarnik | Sterling Heights Sentry | Published January 8, 2013

When Mother Nature dumped her belated Christmas gift of snow on Sterling Heights residents, city employees had a cleanup plan in place.

According to Sterling Heights officials, a Dec. 26 snowstorm prompted an officially declared snow emergency that took effect Dec. 27-28 in the city. During that time, the city’s trucks and plows patrolled the streets, and residents were required to remove parked cars from the street.

Like other cities, Sterling Heights implements snow-emergency periods to clear the way for a safe and efficient snow removal operation, according to Sterling Heights Community Relations Director Steve Guitar.

“We do take it very seriously,” he said. “There’s a lot of reasons to call a snow emergency, and when the decision is made, it’s something that we would like 100 percent compliance with.”

In the event that a snow emergency occurs, residents have plenty of ways to find out. According to Guitar, the city alerts residents on its website, on its Facebook and Twitter accounts, in its online newsletter, on radio station 1700-AM and on Sterling Heights Television. In addition, Guitar said, local media are alerted.

But Sal Conigliaro, director of the Sterling Heights Department of Public Works, said the city saw “mixed” resident cooperation during the post-Christmas snow emergency. He cited the holiday timing as a possible reason, and he said crews planned to go back and clean up certain areas.

“In certain areas, we could not get full compliance, and those streets are, unfortunately, in rougher conditions,” he said.

According to Conigliaro, DPW officials are responsible for more than 60 miles of major roads, 289 miles of local roads and culs-de-sac, and public facilities.

Conigliaro confirmed that vehicles may not park on city streets during snow emergencies, and vehicles that flout the policy may be ticketed or even towed.

Regardless of whether a snow emergency is called, property owners must shovel or clear their sidewalks within 24 hours after a snowfall ends, he said. Code- enforcement officers may tag properties that do not comply. If the snow still is not cleared a day later, the city may hire a contractor to clear off sidewalks and then bill the property owner, he said.

Conigliaro implored residents to abide by the law and shovel sidewalk snow onto their own properties, not into the street.

“By putting snow back in the street, you’re adding to the problem,” he said. “And especially after the street has been plowed, you’re only making the street worse, at that point.”

Residents may help the city by clearing snow around fire hydrants and by forbidding kids from playing by the street, he said.

In addition, Conigliaro warned residents that the city won’t clear snow around mailboxes. He said the city will take responsibility if a DPW plow strikes and damages a mailbox, but if a plow stirs up snow and that snow knocks down a mailbox, the city will not be liable, he said.

“We don’t take responsibility for the weight of the snow as we’re plowing the street,” he said. “A mailbox that is in good condition should be able to handle the weight of the snow.”

Learn more about the Sterling Heights Department of Public Works at or by calling (586) 446-2440.