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Do You Enjoy Leaving that Pile of Snow at the End of My Driveway?

The Royal Oak Department of Public Service answers residents' most-asked questions.

A DPS employee works on an underbody scraper. Credit: Judy Davids
A DPS employee works on an underbody scraper. Credit: Judy Davids
We asked the Royal Oak Department of Public Service to answer some frequently asked questions about snowplowing city roads:

How long are the shifts and do the drivers get breaks?
Shifts are 12 hours long and begin at noon and midnight. Drivers have an opportunity to use restrooms when they stop to grab salt or fuel at the DPS service center at 1600 N. Campbell Rd., said Greg Rassel, director. Drivers also get a 30-minute break to grab something to eat.

Why do trucks travel in groups of two or three?
The most efficient way to push snow to the curb is to pass it off like a baton, Rassel said. The lead truck will travel near the center of the road and push snow to right where a second truck will grab it and push it to the curb. For larger roads it may take three trucks to accomplish the wave effect. 

How fast do trucks go?
They usually travel at around 25 to 35 miles per hour but can go much faster.

"The faster you go, the more snow you can move," said Rassel.

Why is snow plowed to the center of the street in the Central Business District?
"We don't want to plow the snow onto the sidewalks or through someone's store window," Rassel said.

After all roads in the city are plowed, crews come back and haul the snow in the CBD to the vacant parcel of land located at Interstate 696 and Woodward. And yes, there's a backup plan if that property should ever be developed, Rassel said.

Do my property taxes pay for snow removal?
Royal Oak doesn't use any local tax revenue for roads, according to City Manger Don Johnson. 

"All road funding comes from revenue shared by the state, which is collected from taxes on fuel and vehicle registration fees," Johnson said. "Although many communities subsidize the street funds with a contribution from the general fund, Royal Oak's low tax rate has never allowed for that."

What impact do cars left on the street have and does the DPS work with police to have them removed?
Drivers carry tow straps and will move cars if necessary, said driver Lee Collick, but for the most part, trucks simply maneuver around vehicles. 

The police systematically check the streets and work with the DPS to stay ahead of the plows, said Royal Oak Police Chief Corrigan O'Donohue.  More than 2,000 tickets have been issued during the first two snow emergencies this year.

What roads does the county plow?
Just Woodward Avenue.

What's the route? Where do you start and end? Is it always the same?
Main roads are the first priority. Once the main roads are salted, plowed and considered safe to drive on, the plows move into the neighborhoods.

The city is divided into 37 sections, with Section 1 in the city's southeast corner and Section 37 the area of Royal Oak north of 14 Mile Road. During the first snow emergency, plows started in the north moved south. The most recent emergency, plows started in the south and are headed north.

"We flip it for each emergency, which means if you live near 12 Mile Road, you'll always have your street plowed sometime in the middle," Rassel said. "It really does take 24 to 36 hours to hit all the streets. It doesn't matter if there is 4 inches of snow or a foot. It takes the same amount of time."

Why is my street always plowed last?
The answer is, it is not. If you live near the north or the south end of town, your street may last one cleared during a snow emergency, but the next time it will be one of the first.

How many trucks do we have?
Royal Oak has 10 to 14 large trucks out at any given time during a snow emergency. There are also three smaller trucks that are designated to clearing dead-end roads.

Trucks come off the roads to grab salt or fuel and to be repaired. It's common for blades to wear out. Bigger issues include broken parts. It can take up to four hours to make some repairs. 

Do you notice when people wave at you?
Yes. And DPS workers also notice when people throw shovels, rakes or otherwise assault them. One worker had a resident spit in his face.

"When we pick up leaves in the fall people are so happy. They give us cookies and tell us how much they love us, but if we have to shut of their water they hate us," Collick said. "I don't think people realize it's the same people doing everything." 

Do you enjoy leaving that pile of snow at the end of my driveway?
No comment, but the question did get a big laugh.
Bill January 07, 2014 at 08:08 AM
On a two-way street, if you reduce or remove the snow in the street, to the left of your driveway, you’ll reduce the amount of snow dumped at the end of your driveway. I clear the area in front of my neighbor’s home from the curb to about 6 feet into the street, with my snowblower. That way, when the snow plow comes by, I get a “little bump” of snow at the end of my drive, which is much easier to clear than the huge pile of compacted snow that’s there, if I don’t clear the snow in front of my neighbor’s home. I redistribute the snow onto the curb - not into the middle of the street, so the extra snow isn’t carried down a few houses, leaving even a bigger pile at the end of one of my other neighbor’s driveway. That little extra effort, saves me the hard work of removing the huge, compacted pile of snow that the plows leave behind. My neighbors don’t care, as it reduces the mess in front of their home. I suppose, as a disclaimer, I should add - you must pay attention to traffic, and you certainly don't want to try this if you live on a busy street.
Mary Ellen Bell January 07, 2014 at 09:03 AM
People need to understand that while we are safe and cozy inside, the snow plow drivers are out in the cold, trying to safely maneuver around the fools who can't figure out to get their cars off the street as required by city ordinance---and common sense. Furthermore, while we celebrated Christmas Eve and Day and New Years Eve and Day, these drivers left THEIR families/celebrations to clear OUR streets. I am grateful to them, as well as to postal workers, delivery companies and anyone else who works outside in the cold for our benefit. Say thank you :)
The Duke of Royal Oak January 07, 2014 at 09:26 AM
Well said Mary Ellen Bell
Bill January 07, 2014 at 10:11 AM
It's so easy to complain, from the comfort of your home. If you don't like that pile of snow at the end of your driveway, do something about it. I watched yesterday as a neighbor cleared his driveway by blowing the snow into the street, which when the snow plow came through, pushed it all back in front of his driveway. I'm sure he's complaining about the city's snow plows. Of course, he also shot snow everywhere, with no consideration where it was landing - onto his neighbor's car & onto his neighbor's sidewalk - after it had been cleared... You just can't teach that kind of stupid.
Janis Verbeke January 07, 2014 at 05:13 PM
Bill - you sound like an a**hole, a real dumb a**. You're probably over-weight and sitting back in your recliner doing nothing. I don't care what you think. Like the lady posted above, I realize and appreciate how hard it is on the guys that plow the snow - have you ever considered plowing snow for a living? - Unlike you who complains about someone who doesn't plow snow right - like the way you want them to, I, on the other hand are not the type you described. I'd like to see your lard a** get out and plow snow. I make an effort to make it easy on my neighbors and am mindful and smart enough to not to place snow out in the street and probably the majority of Michigan folks know and don't throw snow just anywhere. I'm not one to complain and never was disgruntled about paying taxes, but plowing snow in -0 degree weather with no one's help isn't fun, especially when it's not an act of nature.
Bill January 07, 2014 at 05:50 PM
Hi Janis, Perhaps before you attack somebody, you might actually read what was written. If I'm so lazy, how would I know how to minimize the amount of snow dropped at the end of my driveway by the city plows? I certainly didn't mean to offend anybody by suggesting that showing some respect for your neighbor's property isn't that difficult when using a snowblower. Finally - I never complained about the city snow plows - I bellyached about one neighbor directing the snow he was removing by shooting it onto his neighbor's car and onto his neighbor's cleared sidewalk. Admittedly, I had no right to complain, as it did not directly affect me - so you have me there... Hopefully that misdirected release of anger, will help you have a better evening!
DianeKH January 07, 2014 at 06:32 PM
Janis-Are you high? I detected nothing but common sense, intelligence, and compassion in Bill's comments.
Mark Itall January 08, 2014 at 03:16 AM
Bill, please excuse Janis, what she took hadn't worn off. I too use my snow blower to clear the road in front of my house to eliminate the pile at the bottom. You are right, works great, I blow it onto my yard. (No giant piles when you use a blower) When the snow is enough for a blower I clean 8-10 houses, drives and walks. Used to live on a corner lot as a kid and had to hand shovel all 350 feet around the house - hated it. But I love to use a snow blower, a little good neighborly thing and it helps the mail carrier. Only takes 1.5 hours - less than doing 2 houses by hand.

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