DPS officials talk snow control strategy in Madison Heights

By: Andy Kozlowski | Madison - Park News | Published February 24, 2021

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MADISON HEIGHTS — Officials with the Madison Heights Department of Public Services anticipate that the remainder of this winter will be fairly mild where snowfall is concerned, but they are reminding residents to watch out for snow emergencies and promptly move their vehicles off the streets in the event of one.

Corey Almas, the city’s DPS director, said in an email that a snow emergency is usually declared after snow accumulation exceeds 4 inches within a 24-hour period.

“However, when the weather forecasters predict excessive amounts of snow, we preemptively declare the snow emergency ahead of the storm in order to provide the residents ample notice,” Almas said.

In addition to residents being asked to remove their parked vehicles from the streets during a snow emergency, business owners are asked to instruct their private snow removal contractors to refrain from pushing snow onto the city streets. Failure to do so is in violation of city code.

As of press time, the first and only snow emergency of the 2020-21 winter season was Feb. 15.

“Aside from a few equipment malfunctions, this event went very well,” Almas said. “I have a ton of confidence in this DPS team. They know what needs to be done, and they know how to do it.”

The DPS makes the determination of when to declare a snow emergency, posting notifications to the city’s website, madison-heights.org, as well as on its cable channel, Facebook, Nixle alert service, local media networks and more.

Almas explained that first priority is to clear snow from all of the major roads in the city of Madison Heights, including Campbell Road, Stephenson Highway, John R Road, Dequindre Road, 11 Mile Road, 12 Mile Road, 13 Mile Road and 14 Mile Road.

Once those are clear, the crews begins clearing streets in the neighborhoods. The DPS is also responsible for clearing the parking lots, sidewalks and access points to all city facilities.

The snow removal fleet consists of five tandem-axle dump trucks, four single-axle dump trucks, three one-ton dump trucks, 10 three-quarter-ton pickup trucks, and a ToolCat machine that Almas describes as “extremely essential and versatile.”

There are 18 full-time equipment operators on board with the DPS, as well as two part-time equipment operators, three supervisors, two motor pool mechanics and the motor pool coordinator, all of whom are scheduled for 16-hour shifts. The office administrative staff always play a key role, fielding questions from concerned residents.

The city’s salt supply is plentiful, Almas said, with more salt stockpiled than the 12-year average of salt used from this point to the end of snow season. Salt and brine are cast from the dump trucks to help de-ice the roads.

The 2019-20 winter season saw 19 snow events, two of which were snow emergencies. There have also been 19 snow events this season thus far.

“This has been another relatively mild winter, very similar to what we experienced last year,” Almas said.

But when the snow falls, the DPS is all hands on deck.

“Plowing snow in inclement weather, through the wee hours of the night, over a 16-hour shift is not an easy job. But the men and women of the Department of Public Services take a lot of pride in their work and understand the importance of making the roads safe for the residents and patrons of the city,” Almas said. “I am very proud of the commitment, effort and hard work that this group does on a daily basis, and very thankful to be a part of this organization.”

Madison Heights City Councilman Robert Corbett said in an email that the city owes the DPS crews “a great deal of gratitude” for their work keeping the streets clean and safe.

“Not only do the crews keep our streets clean and easy to traverse for residents, but they also allow emergency vehicles to safely navigate the streets in the community,” Corbett said. “Great city services have been the legacy of Madison Heights, and it’s great to know that it’s continuing well into the community’s second century of existence.”