Franklin County officials stood by their decision to pull highway crews off road clearing efforts last Sunday during the large winter storm.
County Highway Administrator Joe Feldmann said the crews did a great job.
The crews were pulled off in the early afternoon last Sunday for safety reasons, Feldmann said. They were making little to no progress anyway because the snow was coming down so fast, he added.
So it was decided to let the heavy part of the storm pass, and then resume efforts the next day.
Second District Commissioner Mike Schatz agreed that the snow was falling so fast that the crews were not gaining any ground.
The highway department plowed for six hours Sunday until stopping at around 2 p.m.
Presiding County Commissioner John Griesheimer said it was a “tough decision” Feldmann had to make to take the crews off.
“But under the circumstances I think it was the right call,” Griesheimer said.
“I know it was a difficult decision,” Griesheimer said, adding, “I want to commend you all for the job you did and continue to do.”
Griesheimer made the remarks during this week’s county commission meeting.
First District Commissioner Tim Brinker said Feldmann did a great job handling the situation, including communicating with the media and administration.
“Good job by you and all your team,” Brinker said.
All three commissioners “gulped hard” when Feldmann talked to them about stopping plowing last Sunday, Griesheimer said.
He hopes the constituents understand that “we did the best job we could do clearing the snow.”
He said he apologizes to residents who had problems with the way the county handled the snow removal, but “it was a very, very difficult situation.”
Griesheimer noted that highway crews’ “lives are on the line,” especially when they are in remote areas when the conditions create poor visibility.
Two county trucks turned over on their sides during the event, Griesheimer said.
“That really shows you how bad it really was,” he said.
Snow Removal Changes?
After the meeting, Griesheimer said that in the coming year commissioners may discuss with Feldmann how the county “deals with snow removal.”
That may include possible changes to make snow removal more efficient, Griesheimer added.
“It’s a tough issue,” Griesheimer said, adding, “you can’t plan on a 10- to 20-year event.”
The county does the best it can with the equipment it has, he said.
“Maybe we need to look at contracting,” he said. “I know MoDOT hires a lot of temporary help. I’m not sure that would be a way for us to go.”
But compared to where the county used to be, “we’ve improved one heck of a lot,” he said.
It has taken the county a long time to build up an inventory of modern equipment for snow removal and road maintenance, Griesheimer noted.
Beaufort-Leslie Fire Protection District Chief Terry Feth expressed concerns about the county’s road conditions during the storm. He said some of his firefighters had a hard time getting to the firehouses.
Griesheimer said he has since talked to Feth and had a good conversation with him.
“I think he understands where we’re coming from,” Griesheimer said. “I apologized to him if there were any issues.”
He added that the county is not dealing with nearly the amount of snow removal problems that the city of St. Louis is.
Feldmann said dealing with snow removal on this magnitude is always a learning experience and that there is always room for improvement.
Emergency Management Director Abe Cook also praised the team effort of all the officials from the county and municipalities.