The Farmington Hills Public Works Department plows when there are 4 inches of snow or more across 250 miles of local city roads.

The Farmington Hills Public Works Department plows when there are 4 inches of snow or more across 250 miles of local city roads.

Photo provided by the city of Farmington Hills

Officials discuss snow plowing schedules and resident concerns

By: Sherri Kolade | Farmington Press | Published January 18, 2018

FARMINGTON/FARMINGTON HILLS  — There is no business like snow business — just ask Farmington and Farmington Hills Department of Public Works officials, who decide the order in which both cities are plowed. 

Farmington Superintendent of Public Works Chuck Eudy and Kevin McCarthy, superintendent of public works for Farmington Hills, discussed how roads are prioritized when it comes to plowing. 

Eudy said that the Farmington Public Safety Department monitors road conditions from 4 p.m. to 7:30 a.m., and when public safety officials determine that there is a need for the roads to be salted or plowed, they contact DPW snow removal crews.

He said that the city has two primary salt routes. The first truck will maintain Farmington Road from Eight Mile Road to 10 Mile Road, which includes sections of Shiawassee Road from Farmington Road to Power Road. The second truck will maintain Power Road from 10 Mile Road to Grand River Avenue. Other roads maintained include the area of Raphael Road from 10 Mile Road to Shiawassee Street.

“Some of the ... areas the second truck will maintain (include) Grand River Avenue from basically Target (located at 30020 Grand River Ave.) all the way out to M-5,” Eudy said. “When those two trucks have the road conditions deemed where they can expand their route, they expand to maintaining Drake Road from Grand River to Freedom (Road), (and) Gill Road from Grand River to Freedom.”

Eudy said that DPW will also expand the Freedom Road maintenance or snow removal, sharing this responsibility with the city of Farmington Hills.

“We share Freedom Road,” he said, adding that most of the border is maintained by Farmington Hills. “We maintain Nine Mile and Freedom (Road) to Gill Road and Freedom (Road), among other portions.”

Eudy said that there are also dedicated school routes that are maintained under major roads.

Roads not owned by the city that are plowed by others include a county road — Grand River Avenue — a Michigan Department of Transportation route.

MDOT maintains Grand River Avenue from Target to M-5, and Farmington Road from Eight Mile Road to Grand River Avenue. 

Eudy added that the city owns every road except for Grand River Avenue and Farmington Road from Eight Mile Road to Grand River Avenue, which are all owned by MDOT.

The city of Farmington has its major roads cleared by 7:30 a.m. 

“(A) snow removal event could take up to four hours just for the major roads,” he said, especially if it starts snowing at 4 a.m.

Eudy said that the city has two snowplow trucks and two additional trucks.

The timeliness of clearing the road also depends on how much snow fell and when. If 3 or more inches of snow fell, then DPW officials will plow all the residential streets, which could take another six hours using four large trucks and, typically, four pickup trucks to assist.

Eudy said that the same people who provide snow removal services in Farmington also repair water mains and sewers, and sometimes it takes patience to get everything done.

Farmington resident Penny Oglesby said in a statement that she really doesn’t have any complaints about the snow removal process.

“For the entire time I owned businesses in Dearborn and Allen Park, Farmington was/is the only city I traveled through that really did an outstanding job of being on top of hazardous road conditions,” she said. “It was always nice to depend on the Farmington roads to be scrapped and salted.”

Farmington Civic Theater Manager Scott Freeman said in an email that while individual building owners and businesses are responsible for clearing snow off the sidewalk, with road snow removal, he thinks the city does a very good job clearing Grand River Avenue, where his business is located.

“A few days ago, I noticed that the street had been treated for ice and was very drivable,” he said. “Sometimes, as the result of clearing the street, on-street parking and the loading zone have residual snow pushed into them. But they are cleared later. That is the protocol.”

Eudy said that when there is a snow emergency, he needs eight people to plow; there are 10 total employees.

Eudy said that DPW tries to rotate each area based on trash collection day, so that it is not the same subdivisions that are plowed first all the time. 

“If there is trash collection on that day, we avoid going into there first,” he said. “We allow the trash to collect (because the) last thing we want to do is hit any trash bags going down the street.”

The city of Farmington collects trash five days a week.

He said that with snow removal, he also takes into consideration how many people park on the street before leaving for work, among other factors, when deciding where to plow first.

“It really benefits the community when it snows if people can remove their cars from the street. That way, the trucks are more efficient in plowing the snow off the roadways and we don’t have to make return tips to clear the snow off the road,” he said.

McCarthy agreed and said that Public Works, too, would like residents to keep their cars off the street, among other things.

“What would make our lives easier is if you would not put your snow back on the road and not park cars on the street,” McCarthy said. “We have to go around the car, and then invariably they (residents) will call us and say, ‘You did not plow in front of my house.’”

We have to double back and replow — it is a wasted effort,” McCarthy said.

McCarthy added that the city has six major plow routes. 

“So six guys would address those, and we do that from the start of a storm to when the roads start to deteriorate the driveability to the end of a snowstorm,” McCarthy said. “We stay on those routes 24/7. From that moment it happens, we’re out here.”

McCarthy added that his department supplements its staff with mechanics, engineers, inspectors from the Engineering Division, building maintenance staff and more. In addition to the snowplow trucks, there are trucks that pick what snow was left.  

“We do dead ends and cul-de-sacs and clean up the whole city,” he said. “It takes us anywhere from 24 to 36 hours to do the whole city with snowplow trucks, then pickups with plows on the front. We usually have 17 dump trucks, so anywhere from 15 to 17 on the road … then probably another 20 pickup trucks in the city.” 

The six major roads encompass every major road in the city, such as Nine Mile Road, part of 10 Mile Road and part of Grand River Avenue.

“We divide the city major roads into six pieces,” he said, adding that Farmington Public Schools is part of the designated routes.

McCarthy said that the major routes get special treatment and priority to allow police and fire officials access to the roads, and to allow residents to have safe driveability.

He said that if the city receives 4 inches of snow or more, the snowplow crews are out there plowing every street in the city from “curb to curb.”

He said that he receives complaints from people who say their streets are always plowed last, or their streets were not plowed, and even that the snowplow trucks are pushing snow into their driveways.

“Some of the people think that some of the roads should look like they do in June — they should be clear and dry,” McCarthy said, adding that having the roads clear and dry during this time of the year is “physically impossible” because there are 250 miles of local city roads. “If you make four passes (when plowing the roads), you are driving 1,000 miles to plow the city once.”

McCarthy said that his department keeps track of where it started and stopped when plowing with a map.

“We have maps of every snowstorm; we keep track of that (so) everybody gets a fair shake in this town,” he said, adding that after a snowstorm, within 30 hours, city roads are plowed out.

“It takes probably 30 hours on a normal snow because you have to wait for trash (pickup),” he said, echoing Eudy’s thoughts.

McCarthy added that he has a map of the city divided into tiers; there are six layers of the city spanning from Eight Mile Road to 14 Mile Road.

“We put an arrow where we start on a hand map — put an arrow in the direction we went and put an X on the last section we plow in that tier,” he said. “Eventually, everybody gets first.”

He said that things have improved.

“We have better equipment now; less trucks are broken down,” he said. “When the snow starts, our guys … are here working … round the clock making the city safe.”

McCarthy added that the city does not plow county roads, which include 12 Mile Road, Eight Mile Road, some of 10 Mile Road, Haggerty Road, Orchard Lake Road and Middlebelt Road.

State roads include Northwestern Highway, Interstate 696 and Orchard Lake Road.

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