Big Picture: How Do Towns Prepare for Winter - KHGI-TV/KWNB-TV/KHGI-CD-Grand Island, Kearney, Hastings

Big Picture: How Do Towns Prepare for Winter


Take Wood River and Grand Island declaring a snow emergency. G.I.'s public works, street
department, and police all have say in declaring an emergency. However, in Wood River, the mayor decides.

Wood River Mayor John Webster doesn't waste time hauling out the plows for a few inches of snow. He said an emergency requires about six inches. Not so for Grand Island; The city may declare an emergency with two to three inches. They usually bring in extra help for anything more than that.

"When we have a significant snow fall event, we're running to an emergency, we're begging and borrowing for any contractor we can," said Steve Riehle, Grand Island Public Works Director. He referred to the March '06 snow storm as a time they needed all the help they could get.

He usually has 27 street employees and 14 contract workers.

But contractors aren't part of Wood River's budget. In fact, the town doesn't even have a separate snow removal budget. Webster said they've never needed contractors; just, what he calls, his "four boys."

"We have no problems whatsoever," Webster said. "The boys know what to do, they all have their own jobs."

Webster's "boys" take care of downtown first, then move to side streets. Grand Island focuses on highways, then downtown, and only gets to residential areas if there's five inches or more.

"One of the reasons we don't do that is sometimes Mother Nature can do a really good job of
melting five inches of snow, and can clear that faster than us," Riehle said.

But what if Mother Nature doesn't melt it fast enough, and you're parked on a snow emergency route?

"Hopefully people have an idea," Riehle said. "If I'm on a busy street, I have to move my car." 

But people don't always move their cars in Grand Island. So along snow emergency routes, they're either blocked in with plow snow, or ticketed and towed. That runs over $100 in Grand Island. But that's not the protocol in Wood River.

"We go around them, we don't enforce, there's no law, we just hope they'll get out of the
way, and most of the time they do," Webster said. As for tickets and towing?  "No, no absolutely not," he said. 

Wood River residents move their cars, his boys plow, and nobody complains.

"To the contrary, it's 'thank you,'" Webster said. "Then the mayor takes the boys out for breakfast; they get treated well."

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