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Bingham Farms, Birmingham, Bloomfield Hills, Bloomfield Township, Franklin

January 9, 2013

Communities gear up for more snow

As flakes continue to fall, public works employees say they’re ready to keep roadways safe

By Robin Ruehlen and Tiffany Esshaki
C & G Staff Writers

As snow continues to fall across the Eagle’s coverage area, city workers are getting ready to keep the streets clear throughout the winter, which many think will be a snowier, slushier season than last year.

In Birmingham, Department of Public Works Director Lauren Wood said residents can expect main roads, such as Maple and Lincoln, and the city’s downtown parking structures to be cleared first after a major snowfall, followed by residential streets. But as crews work to plow and salt local roads, she said, residents will be expected to do the same on their own property to comply with Birmingham’s snow-removal ordinance.

“We’ve been aggressively enforcing it for 10 or 15 years,” said Wood of the ordinance, which requires residents to clear snow and ice off of sidewalks within 12 hours of a snowfall. If the snow stops falling during the night, residents must clear a path by 6 p.m. the following day, or the city will shovel the sidewalk at the property owner’s expense.

The ordinance, Wood explained, is meant to keep pathways safe around Birmingham to further promote walkability in the city. In addition to shoveling snow, residents in Birmingham are also required to move vehicles off of streets when the city declares a snow emergency, so plows and salt trucks can easily get through. According to the city’s website, cars in violation of the ordinance will be ticketed.

Wood said it’s important to have cars off of residential streets after a major snowfall so plows can get as much snow cleared as possible to keep roadways safe. This year, she said, the city has around $100,000 budgeted for clearing Birmingham roads, as well as other tasks involving snow and ice removal. 

She does admit that the city was able to save some money on salt this year, since there was much left over after last year’s mild winter. Due to purchasing contracts, though, the city still had to buy a minimum amount of salt for the 2012-13 season.

Bloomfield Hills City Manager Jay Cravens said that, in his city, they’ve budgeted $80,000 for salt alone this season, despite the fact that there’s plenty left over from last winter.

“We had quite a lot left over from last year. We were joking a few weeks ago that we better get some snow because we don’t know where we’re going to put it,” said Cravens of the salt, which is stored on Cranbrook Educational Community property.

Cravens said that Bloomfield Hills residents can usually expect all roadways to be cleared within 12 to 24 hours of a snowfall, though he said the city’s crews are so efficient that the job tends to be completed within eight hours of a major event. Bloomfield Hills Department of Public Works foreman Jamie Spivy agreed, saying that with no sidewalks and no parking allowed on city streets, the job of plowing and salting streets tends to go smoothly each year.

“We don’t have the snow emergencies, since there’s no parking on our streets anyway,” he said. “We have our main roads and our secondaries, and everything is plowed and salted before we go home.”

Bloomfield Township Supervisor Leo Savoie said that, in times of heavy snowfall or a snow emergency, the township rarely experiences issues with noncompliance.

“Because of the general makeup of the community, the driveways are longer, and most homes have garages, so we get very little street parking,” he said.

“The first night that crews were out salting this year, every street was done except for one, which was a small dead end. There were a lot of cars parked in the street because of a party, so the crews just went out the following day to do it.”

The Bloomfield Township Road Division maintains 176 miles of subdivision roads and 37 miles of unpaved gravel roads, while the Road Commission for Oakland County is responsible for 50 miles of primary roads and state trunk lines that run through the township. 

Savoie said that, during the recent Christmas week snowfall, he received a call at around 10 p.m. from an elderly neighbor.

“He told me that he had an 8 a.m. appointment, and since he lives on a cul-de-sac, he was worried about getting through the snow that piles up at the end of his driveway,” Savoie said.

Savoie left a message for Road Division workers, and several hours later, he saw a plow truck pass his house on its way to clear the cul-de-sac and his neighbor’s driveway.

“Our crews go out of their way to help, and that’s the nice thing about them coming out at 3 a.m. — there’s no one on the roads, and they can plow right through them.”

The villages of Bingham Farms and Franklin both have contracts with Johnson Landscaping to take care of their snow removal. Franklin Village President Jim Kochensparger said he estimates that Franklin’s contract is somewhere around $50,000, while Bingham Farms Clerk/Administrator Kathryn Hagaman said their contract is just over half that, at about $25,750.

“That’s what we normally budget, so if we get hit with a bad winter, then we have the money in the budget already.”

Neither community declares snow emergencies, since both villages have very few residents who choose to regularly park on streets. While Kochensparger said he does advise residents to move cars out of the street, if they can, when snow reaches 4 inches or higher, Hagaman said she can’t recall a time in Bingham Farms when snow removal has ever been an issue.

“There are no snow emergencies because we don’t have any downtown areas, and very few, if any, people ever park on the street,” said Hagaman of Bingham Farms residents. “We’ve never had a problem with it. Everyone just kind of does what they’re supposed to do.”

The Village of Beverly Hills reminds residents to move all vehicles from the streets immediately during a snow emergency, or when 4 or more inches of snow are predicted. Residents are asked to help keep fire hydrants clear of snow, and are prohibited from shoveling ice, snow or slush onto roadways or road shoulders.

You can reach C & G Staff Writer Robin Ruehlen at rruehlen@candgnews.com or at (586)279-1105.

You can reach C & G Staff Writer Tiffany Esshaki at tesshaki@candgnews.com or at (586)498-1095.