Major snowfall in Sitka last year kept the city busy plowing roads. This year, the Assembly increased the supplies budget for snow removal on city streets to $160,000. (Renusha Indralingam/KCAW photo)

As temperatures drop, the City and Borough of Sitka is gearing up for another season of clearing the roads of snow. The public works department has a new mantra they’re calling the “Three P’s of Snow Removal”: Be prepared, be patient, and be a partner.”

Maintenance and Operations Superintendent Harry Greene said preparation starts with your vehicle. “Have the proper snow tires. Studded tires are preferred. If you can’t do that, have chains to put on your tires when it gets slippery,” Greene advised residents on-air at KCAW. “New wiper blades, or just make sure your wiper blades are good. And keep your fuel tank half full or above, so you don’t get water condensation in it and you don’t have frozen fuel lines,” he said.

Listen to the full conversation about snow removal with Greene and Community Affairs Director Maegan Bosak from Tuesday’s Morning Interview here: 

Downloadable audio.

After a snowstorm, Greene says the city prioritizes plowing the schools and hospitals first and then gradually works its way outward. At times, the snow is pushed onto the sidewalks. Greene says his crew tries to avoid that, but can’t always. The entire Southeast panhandle was hammered with snowfall last year.

“After having so much snow we’ve got to keep the roads open, so we do have to push the snow up on the sidewalks. We just don’t have the budget to remove the snow from the sidewalks. Also, a lot of the sidewalks that we get complaints for are Departement of Transportation (DoT) sidewalks. The state is responsible for them,” Greene said.

Many of Sitka’s roads are state property and cleared by a different crew than the one from the city. That includes all the roads stemming from the roundabout to the end of Sawmill Creek Road, Halibut Point Road, and Sitka’s Rocky Gutierrez airport.

The Public Works department went over their $105,000 supplies budget keeping up with snow removal last year. The Assembly approved increasing their budget to approximately $161,000 for this year. Some of that money is used to pay contractors to plow the parking lots. Other funds go towards the purchase of sand and deicing chemicals, which Green deploys if the roads become slick.

“The police department will call. When the roads get slippery, we’ll make a call at 3 o’clock in the morning sometimes and say, ‘Well, we better start sanding before everyone gets up.'”

When it comes to the other two P’s of snow safety – exercising patience and being a partner – Greene recommends citizens drive or walk the clearest route to work, even if it takes longer, and to avoid parking on the road when a storm is expected.