UPDATE: Due to a reporting error, this story has been updated to provide the snow plow deployments.
With 6-plus inches of snow snarling the roads Friday, Lansing Mayor Andy Schor faced his first test of the administration’s handle on public service. How’d he do?
Residents across the city commenting on Facebook generally were favorable, but expressed some concerns.
“No plows have come to my Southside Lansing neighborhood (Miller Road and N. Coulson Court),” wrote Jon Villasurda on Facebook Friday. “Multiple people have gotten stuck and the snow is several inches high.
My wife and I got stuck twice this morning as we struggled to get out of the neighborhood. Throughout this entire winter, I’ve only seen a plow come through once.”
Villasurda echoed concerns of a lot or residents of the south side, which gets plowed last. The plows start on the far north end by the airport and finish, 139 miles later, on the south end.
Kathy Tobe, who attended a meeting with newly elected City Councilman At-Large Peter Spadafore, said she’s happy overall with the plowing in her neighborhood, Churchill Downs, also on the south side.
But Joy Gleason, who lives in Potter- Walsh Neighborhood, said her little section of Malcolm X Street, along the south edge of I-496, is often neglected by the plows.
“It gets bad,” she said. “People can’t get out.
And emergency crews can’t get in.”
Schor was riding shotgun in one of the city’s new plows Friday as the city was socked with snow. For an hour, the new mayor rode south, then north, on Cedar Street, with a second one following. The new plow has not only an undercarriage blade but a side blade. Both work together to scrape snow across a lane and half of traffic. A follow-up plow deposits that snow on the side of the road.
“We are getting it cleared, the main streets,” Schor said Saturday morning. “We get to the side streets. It started snowing Friday. The first conservative projection I heard was we’ll get to those side streets Monday, and then I heard Sunday, and now, I understand that we’ve actually gotten to quite a few of them today because it’s stopped snowing.”
Susan Lyons Robertson praised the city’s snow removal on Facebook.
“I’m in the Georgetown area, also a bus route,” she wrote, referring to a neighborhood on the outer south end. “City does a great job out here. Sometimes we think it’s too slow because they’re trying to keep the main roads cleared in a heavy snow, and occasionally my neighborhood waits to get plowed. Generally, not more than 24 hours, though. I’m typically impressed with the main street snow removal/salting. I think they have their priorities right.”
The city is broken into 31 zones for snow plowing. That map is available online. Schor said the street plowing is based on the city's trash pick up schedule. "They start according to the trash route. If trash day is coming up in the south then that's where the plows start. Last week it was trash day in the north on Friday."
And just last week, Schor announced the city had installed GPS tracking devices on all snow plows. While that information won’t be uploaded to the city website on a real-time basis, Schor said it will be clear where the plows have been. That’s important, he said, noting an instance over the weekend where he was notified a street in Groesbeck had not been plowed.
“I just got a Facebook post from someone who said they were in Groesbeck and Kingswood didn’t get plowed, but maybe Chester and some of the others did,” he said. “So I texted (public service director) Andy Kilpatrick, and he just texted me back and said, ‘They’re still doing the route.’ They’re still doing the routes, so we’ll get there, but people should be able to get online and see where has it been done and was their street done and were they missed and were they not missed.”
Schor was on Facebook personally reassuring residents that plows were working the city throughout the weekend.
Another common snow-related complaint is about the city’s 24-hour sidewalk-clearing ordinance.
“Chiming in on the double standard,” wrote Andrew Herrbach. “If I have to have my sidewalk clear within 24 hours of the last hour of snowfall, the road should be plowed in the same amount of time.”
Schor noted that the sidewalk ordinance comes into play only after the snow stops falling. And if a second snowfall comes in later, the clock stops and restarts when that snow event is over. On top of that, he noted, when the city get a complaint on unshoveled sidewalks, the property gets an additional 24 hours to remove the snow before contractors move in to do it. Altogether, a few hundred properties are ordered to be cleared each winter.
That ordinance requires that snow be removed from all sidewalks, side to side. While talking with Schor, it was noted the sidewalks in the 2000 block of Michigan Avenue were not cleared fully, causing people parking on the street to have to traverse snow banks or through the road to an access.
“We won’t differentiate it,” Schor said of residential versus commercial sidewalk clearance. “If someone is out of compliance, then someone’s out of compliance. It includes the city, city spaces. The city will actually cite itself, which I didn’t know.”
But Schor clarified Monday, “Businesses and residents are responsible to clear enough sidewalk so that people can walk.” He added that he will not hold businesses reponsible for clearing the snow buildup along the street caused by the city plows.
While the city was busy plowing the roads Friday during the snow event, which resulted in school closures throughout the county as well as the closure of county offices and the early closure of city offices, Ingham County sheriff’s deputies and Michigan State Police troopers had their hands full with accidents on the area’s highways.
According to a Saturday morning email from Ingham County Sheriff Sgt. Jeff Weiss, the two agencies responded to 33 accidents. Ingham County handled the bulk of those, 23, while the Michigan State Police responded to 10. Those stats for the county included 13 accidents involving tractor trailers. The department assisted over 40 people, he reported.
But the weather and accidents also resulted in serious highway shutdowns. I-96 was closed for three hours at the U.S. 127 junction. It was also shut down for four hours at the Williamston exit. That shutdown also required Livingston County officials to shut down the highway at Fowlerville as well.