Why can't the city do a better job of snow removal? I can't believe the city waits until folks have driven over all the streets and packed down the snow into irremovable ice, which then turns the streets into a four-wheel driving experience. (Actually, that's an improvement for Florida Road.) This is Colorado for crying out loud, and it does snow here. I have lived in snow country for all of my 65 years and have never seen a city that has little or no plan for winter. At least the state knows what to do; it dispatches plows at the first hint of a snow. Maybe the city should take notice. - Ed Lehner
Ed wasn't the only reader upset with the city's plowing (or lack thereof), but his letter pretty much summed up community frustration.
The streets were, indeed, an intolerable mess. Weren't any lessons learned from last winter?
Remember last January? Residents are still traumatized. Big snow after big snow, with no clear days between storms.
If it weren't for Snowdown, things would have been completely unbearable.
OK, enough complaining. It's easy to be a Monday-morning quarterback - or snowplow driver, as the case may be.
So just exactly what happened during the Great Christmas Storm? Action Line called city offices Friday.
Unfortunately for City Engineer Gregg Boysen, he was senior official on duty, and therefore in charge of pesky media inquiries. (That'll teach Gregg to not take a vacation day on the Friday after New Year's Day.)
"It was a big snow event," Boysen said, adding candidly, "It was overwhelming."
The city has to rely on existing and limited staff and equipment.
"This was an exceptional snowstorm, and we did the best we could with the resources and manpower available," he said.
Another factor was the nature of the snow itself.
"It wasn't light and fluffy," Boysen said, a fact that local chiropractors can verify.
A hard rain fell on top of existing snow and more snow came on top of that. The sodden, heavy snow slowed the plow crews considerably.
Then cold temperatures added a final insult to the Durango winter wonderland and turned the streets into a hockey arena.
"But the biggest problem is always parked cars," Boysen added. The presence of parked cars forces plows to slow to a crawl, as the heavy equipment must maneuver slowly and carefully.
In the county and along highways, plow drivers can go fast and make numerous passes because they don't have to deal with parked cars - or intersections, sidewalks and metropolitan infrastructure.
Durango has 74 linear miles of streets to plow, Boysen said. Sometimes, they just can't keep up.
Action Line sees two options.
Plan A: If residents want more services, we should raise taxes. It's been something like a bazillion years since the last municipal tax hike.
Or we can enact Plan B: Shift the job of snow removal to the Parks & Rec Department. After all, aren't snow-free streets a quality-of-life issue?
Everyone knows that Parks & Rec gets what it wants in the budget process, and its sales-tax funding ensures a steady revenue stream. Putting Park & Rec in charge of plowing would ensure lots of fancy, new plows and abundant staff.
What about snow-shovel aerobics classes? How about handing ice chippers to all the kids loitering in the Rec Center after school. Let's put youths to work - and prepare them for the real Durango lifestyle of low pay and hard physical labor.
Parks & Rec could dump plowed snow at the top of Chapman Hill, thereby eliminating the need for a $500,000 snowmaking system.
Durango then would be renowned for extreme municipal skiing on frozen street debris and ice chunks the size of microwave ovens - all served by a glove-eating rope tow.
E-mail questions to firstname.lastname@example.org or mail them to Action Line, The Durango Herald, 1275 Main Ave., Durango, CO 81301. You can request anonymity if you stop the annoying and dangerous practice of pushing your driveway snow out into the street.