Akron task force issues recommendation to avoid another wintry mess

Akron school buses stuck in snow again
Akron school buses stuck in snow again
Updated: Mar. 8, 2019 at 4:26 PM EST
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CLEVELAND, OH (WOIO) -An Akron task force that has been looking into the city's response following the January 19 snow storm has released its recommendations for improving snow plowing in the future. The force was formed by City Council President Margo Sommerville, and included members of council, public works, and the general public.

Following the January storm, City Hall issued an apology to residents about the way the snow was cleared from the roads, a process which took days. Several community meeting afterward took comments and suggestions from community members.

Here are the recommendations from the task force.

1. Reopen the Maintenance Facility on Copley Road which was closed in 2007. Currently, the City has only one facility open for maintenance on the east side of town on Triplett Blvd. This means plows must travel across town for minor repairs and servicing. A west side facility would greatly reduce travel time and increase plowing time.

2. Invest in new plow equipment for 10 additional trucks. This new fleet will be reserved for complaint response, and one truck will be designated to the side streets of each City ward. The City will also evaluate and develop a repair and replacement program for all equipment.

3. Evaluate protocols for hiring private contractors to assist in plowing. Having quality control measures and operational guidelines with pre-established route assignments in place in advance will greatly speed up the process.

4. Reassess maintenance agreement with ODOT. Current contractual obligations require the City to maintain state highways within the City of Akron. The contract is up for renewal in July 2019. At that time, the City should reevaluate the costs and benefits of this agreement.

5. Evaluate staffing levels in Public Works. Re-evaluate the number of full-time employees in Public Works, as compared to temporary seasonal employees, to maximize retaining efficient and experienced workers, while still working within budgetary constraints.

6. Enhance parking ban regulations. Cars left on streets during periods of heavy snow slow down plow trucks and make plowing some streets nearly impossible. Announcing the bans early and enforcing them will improve plowing efficiency.

7. Develop a training plan for all snow and ice response personnel. Many of the personnel who had experience with large storms retired over the last 10 years. A comprehensive training plan will be developed and current and future staff will be certified. The Task Force is looking into the cost of simulator software for training purposes and the potential for collaborating with other cities and community stakeholders.

8. Develop a digital technology strategy to improve communication. Tools to be considered may include social media channels, a dedicated webpage displaying plowing progress, text alerts, etc.

9. Create and publish a set of snow and ice FAQs to appear on the City Council website and other relevant locations.

10. Evaluate performance metrics of truck routes in order to increase plowing efficiencies and reduce travel times.

There is no requirement for the mayor’s office to put the recommendations in place, but Sommerville said in a press release that the mayor had listened to the suggestions and seemed willing to work with them going forward.

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