In the past week, Kalispell residents have been greeted each day by fresh snow covering streets, sidewalks and cars. One major storm struck last week, and another is sweeping through the valley today with the potential to drop up to 20 inches of new snow by Saturday morning.
After large snow dumps, residents know plows have been working since well before dawn and they need to shovel their sidewalk before leaving for work. When snowfall is lighter, however, it can be more difficult to know what to expect. City officials have limited money and resources to service the streets, and winter snowfall can be unpredictable.
When exactly does the city activate plows? When will a street be in the rotation? The Inter Lake has compiled a summary of municipal snow-removal policies so residents know what to expect this winter.
Kalispell has established a list of primary transportation corridors that get serviced by plows each hour during a major snowfall. Another secondary list of essential routes are serviced with the spare time each hour a plow has after the first-tier corridors are serviced.
Most residential streets are only plowed if snowfall exceeds 3 inches. If snowfall in excess of 3 inches occurs, then the city policy is to reach those streets within 48 hours of the conclusion of snowfall. If drifting occurs and snow accumulation is more than 3 inches in a certain spot, that can also trigger the activation of a city plow to clear the road.
Plows will work curb to curb, but in the event a private vehicle is legally parked on the side of a road, the plow operator is supposed to try and avoid plowing a pile of snow that could block the car in. It does sometime happen, officials say, and the policy is that plow operators can’t be tapped for help in unburying the car when it does occur.
Public parking lots receive a fairly high priority following the conclusion of snowfall. The city policy is to get them cleared out within 12 hours. Parking lots and sidewalks administered by the Kalispell Parking Commission don’t fall under this policy. Street parking spots are supposed to be serviced within 24 hours of the conclusion of the storm.
Sidewalks in front of city-owned properties are supposed to be cleared by the city within 36 hours of the accumulation of snowfall. In the central business district, store owners or occupants are required to have the sidewalks in front of their facility cleared by noon on the day any snow accumulates. The central business district includes all sidewalks on both sides of any street or avenue within the area bounded by 1st Avenue East on the east side, 1st Avenue West on the west end, Idaho Street on the north and 6th Street on the south.
Private residential sidewalks are subject to far less rigorous standards. Owners or occupants of houses are also required to clear snow from the sidewalk in front of their house, but they are given 72 hours, or three full days, to do so. According to city code, the maximum penalties for not adhering to the guidelines are a $500 fine, six months in prison or both.
Snow plowing in central Kalispell will be done on avenues on Sunday, Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Streets will be plowed on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday. The city recommends people avoid parking on public streets on avenues that are set to be plowed to hasten the process for the rest of the city.
Alleys will never be cleared by city plows, unless the alley contains access to an essential city service or utility. City employees and equipment will also never be used to plow private property, including driveways.
More information on city snow removal policies can be found on the city website, at http://www.kalispell.com/public_works/citizen_snow_removal.php.
Peregrine Frissell can be reached at (406) 758-4438 or firstname.lastname@example.org.