Snow removal review: How’d Montgomery Co. do?

WASHINGTON – Winter’s not over yet, but area governments are checking to see just how much of a dent snow removal efforts put in their budgets.

In Montgomery County, Council President Craig Rice said putting a price tag on the cost of plow operations is still in the works. He defended the work of area crews in the latest storm calling the storm that dumped up to 2 feet of snow in parts of Montgomery County “unprecedented.”

Rice’s colleague, council member Nancy Navarro, wasn’t happy with the county’s snow-fighting efforts. In a newsletter she wrote that snow plow operations were more effective than in the past, but called problems with the county’s 311 system “unacceptable.”

Rice did concede that the county’s website designed to show which streets were plowed and where crews were working experienced several outages.

“I actually was using the system myself just to give people feedback.”

But Rice said as the day of the storm wore on, residents were getting error messages. Rice also said there were problems with the county’s 311 information system that deserved some attention.

Last week, Rice’s colleague, council member Hans Riemer, floated an idea to expand the county’s snow removal operations by putting new emphasis on clearing sidewalks and bike trails that have become commuter routes.

Rice wasn’t enthusiastic.

“Why would we be reacting to something that’s an anamoly vs. the norm?”

Rice said instead of introducing new legislation, the county could benefit from more public education to get residents to shovel their sidewalks and walkways within 24 hours after the snow stops falling. Rice insisted new legislation shouldn’t be created for heavy snowfalls that occur periodically.

“Should we be introducing legislation for something that happens every four or five years? I don’t think so,” said Rice.

Currently in Montgomery County, residents have to shovel their sidewalks within 24 hours after the snow falls. Otherwise they risk a $50 dollar fine. That fine can continue to stack up with each day that passes that a walkway isn’t shoveled or plowed.

A hearing on how Montgomery County highway crews did is scheduled for next month. According to Council member Nancy Navarro’s office, the meeting is scheduled for Tuesday, March 18.

WTOP’s Kate Ryan contributed to this report.

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