Borough Mayor Charlie Pierce defended the maintenance efforts of the Road Service Area at the Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly meeting on Jan. 9, where the often-contentious topic of snow plowing was discussed.
“Whatever happened to the day and time where you chained up?” he said.
Many peninsula residents have submitted their concerns over the winter months about how quickly — or slowly — their neighborhoods get plowed and sanded after a snowfall. While addressing these concerns to Pierce, Assembly President Wayne Ogle brought up an emotionally charged, handwritten letter given to the assembly. According to Ogle, it described how a state trooper was unable to make it up a hill while responding to a call because the roads had not been adequately sanded.
Pierce said he recognized that there are concerns and said that the borough is maintaining the roads to the best of its ability.
“The truth of the matter is you can never get there quick enough,” Pierce said. The Road Service Area responds to every call that they receive, Pierce said. He also praised recently appointed RSA Director Dil Uhlin for his hard work and responsiveness with the community.
The mayor went on to say that while the contractors and service providers are doing their “very, very best” to maintain the roads in a timely fashion without adding to the budget, people may sometimes be too impatient when it comes to clearing the roads.
“We’re living in a time and a day where the expectation is ‘I want it now, and I expect it now, because I paid for it’… We’re not gonna go out there with a sand truck and sand when it’s raining sideways,” he said.
The borough is divided into 28 road maintenance units totaling 646.2 miles that are serviced by local contractors, according to the Road Service Area website.
The contractors are required to respond to winter callouts within four hours of receiving them, Uhlin said in an email.
Pierce explained at the meeting that if a unit is serviced first after one snowfall, it is typically not serviced first after the next snowfall. According to Uhlin, this rotation depends primarily on the weather patterns and is done to ensure that everyone is equally accommodated.
The approximate rate of snow removal is one hour per mile of road, and there must be 6 inches of snow before the machines hit the road, according to the Road Service Area website. Because each road maintenance unit has between 20 and 37 miles of road, it could take up to an entire day to clear any given unit after a heavy snowfall.
Both Pierce and Uhlin said that because of a limited budget, the borough cannot afford to send contractors to sand every ice patch or immediately plow after every snowfall. Sand accounts for a large portion of the RSA budget, Pierce said.
Uhlin said the RSA assesses every report of hazardous conditions and responds accordingly when specific maintenance is required.
• By BRIAN MAZUREK, Peninsula Clarion