City, county official explains winter weather policies

Edged with frozen slush chunks, the corner of Main and Fourteenth Streets in Sabetha has been covered with sand by the City of Sabetha, to discourage sliding at the corner. Sabetha experienced multiple days of freezing rain and sleet last week.

Though snowfall has not amounted to much, Sabetha area residents have still seen their fair share of winter weather this season in the form of ice — some straight from the sky and some as a result of warm days and cold nights creating a melting and re-freezing process.

Though the streets and roads are all cleared by now, for the most part, some area residents might be wondering what the city and county policies are in regard to pre- and post-treatment of streets and roads in winter weather situation.

When ice is in the forecast, the only option out there to hope to keep roads from becoming slick is to pre-treat with a chemical, similar to what some property owners do with their sidewalks.

However, the City of Sabetha opts for no pre-treatment, and neither do Brown or Nemaha counties. Sabetha City Administrator Doug Allen said he does not know of any small communities in the area that do pre-treatment.

“The reason behind this is cost,” Allen said. “It is really expensive to pre-treat.”

Nemaha County Road and Bridge Department Supervisor Dennis Ronnebaum noted that the forecasts are not always certain.

“Weather forecasters also don’t always hit it right, and then you spend the money and might not get anything [winter weather],” Ronnebaum said.

After ice has fallen, Brown County and crews spread salt at intersections, railroad crossings and bigger hills, according to Clerk Melissa Gormley. Roads are not prioritized, she said.

Nemaha County crews do much the same, Ronnebaum said, though he said that every winter weather event is different.

“I really hate to say we do a certain thing every time, because we treat each time differently,” Ronnebaum said.

In Sabetha, Allen said the city prioritizes its main arteries — Main Street, 14th Street, Oregon Street and Sixth Street — for clean-up or treatment first. If school is in session, that area is first priority, he said.

In the case of ice, Allen said the city does what it can but “there is not much you can do.” The city does apply salt and sand at intersections to “try to give a little traction.”

The timeline for this treatment depends on the time of day, Allen said.

“If it is just starting to fall but getting to be a time when people will be leaving work, we’ll go out in the middle of it. If it’s at night, we get out at about 4 or 5 o’clock in the morning,” he said. “You want to lay it down before the traffic starts hitting, but it is best for the salt and sand to be pretty fresh when the traffic goes over it.”

In some cases this winter, icy streets and roads have prevailed for many days at a time, sometimes worsened by periods of melting and re-freezing.

“When it starts to melt, we try to blade it off so there isn’t as much left to re-freeze,” Allen said.

The city also continues to hit the intersections to try to reduce how slick it is, he said.

Gormley says that Brown County will do more for the roads if the ice is forecast to stick around for longer periods of time.

“We do all we can within our budget,” Gormley said.

Ronnebaum said, if the ice is supposed to stick around for awhile, his crews will spread more material. They only re-treat the roads if absolutely necessary, he said.

When snow falls, city and county priorities seems to be much the same.

Snowfall has not amounted to much for the past few years, Allen noted, but said city crews still clear snow from the main arteries. If less than an inch or two falls, he said, crews do not clear interior streets except in cases of excessive blowing and drifting.

“It is a case-by-case basis with snow,” Allen said.

Sidewalks

According to city code, property owners within Sabetha city limits also have responsibilities when snow and ice fall. City code states that property owners have 12 hours after snow or ice falls to clear their sidewalks.

However, Allen said, the city does not enforce this code.

“If there is a problem in a highly trafficked [sidewalk] area, the city just steps in to ensure it gets done,” Allen said, referring to sidewalks leading to the schools, as well as sidewalks along Main Street.

Amber Deters117 Posts

Amber Deters is Co-Editor of The Sabetha Herald, where she has been on staff since 2005. She specializes in school board, election and legislative reporting, as well as photography and page and advertising design. Amber is a 2005 Kansas State University graduate with a degree in journalism and mass communications, print journalism sequence. She lives in Sabetha with her husband and three children.

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