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Winter storm provides litmus test for Cleveland's tweaked snow removal plan

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CLEVELAND — The City of Cleveland’s snowplow crews have turned their attention to the miles and miles of secondary and neighborhood streets after the recent winter storm. Coming less than three weeks after another storm prompted a review of the city’s snow removal plan, this week’s snowfall provides a litmus test for the tweaked plan.

After the snow finally subsided around midnight Thursday, city officials said all of the main streets across Cleveland had been plowed and treated. Once dawn broke, crews turned their attention to some of the secondary roads and neighborhood streets that criss-cross around the city. Whether Mayor Justin Bibb’s newly-shuffled snow removal plan brought tangible progress depended largely upon where the neighborhood was located.

“I think everybody is willing to be a little patient. We have a new mayor that is trying to wrap his head around the situation,” said Councilman Kris Harsh (Ward 13).

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Even as late as 5 o’clock on Friday evening, large swaths of Harsh’s ward as well as other parts of Old Brooklyn had not been plowed yet, according to neighbors and the city’s still-in-development snow plow tracker. The online tracker showed very little progress on secondary and neighborhood streets in both Ward 13 and Ward 12 between 10 o’clock Friday morning and 4 o’clock that afternoon.

“We can figure out that it’s one of three things: one, [the snowplow tracker] doesn’t work very well and we’re not getting an accurate representation of what has been plowed or, two, we aren’t actually plowing major streets and then side streets,” Harsh said. “Or, third, we just don’t have an equitable distribution of snowplows. You can look at some parts of town and it looks like the system is working the way it is supposed to work and then you can look at Old Brooklyn and it’s just barren.”

Harsh stressed that this is not the fault of the men and women behind the wheel of the city’s snowplows but, instead, the plan itself.

“I think we need to look at how we outfit the city’s feet. I don’t know that buying more plows itself is the solution to the problem, because they only really work a few days out of the year. But maybe having more plows that we can put on city trucks could be an option,” Harsh said. “Maybe we need to think more sincerely about how we create the capacity to handle larger events like this.”

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In the aftermath of last month’s winter storm, which dropped more than a foot of snow across the entire city, Mayor Justin Bibb announced that his administration would be taking a closer look at the city’s snow removal plan. Mayor Bibb also announced that the current plan would be shuffled to place greater emphasis on more expedited coverage of secondary and residential streets. Bibb also recommended the future purchase of 20 additional snow plows.

On the western edge of Old Brooklyn, Faith Cogar and her roommate, Rohan Ryan, were trying and struggling to get their cars out of their snow-covered street.

“Yes, it’s Ohio but it doesn’t make it any less frustrating,” Cogar said. “Just because I expect it doesn’t mean I like it.”

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Although Cogar said there was a slight improvement in snow removal following this week’s storm when compared to last month’s storm, there was also a substantial difference in just how much snow fell. Additionally, this week’s storm started off with rain and warmer temperatures, which accelerated snowmelt and made pre-treating the roads impossible.

“When we had that big snowfall last month, it took days for even some of the main roads to get plowed,” Cogar said.

Next Monday, the City Council’s Municipal Services Committee will receive a briefing on the city’s snow removal plan.