Number of snow trucks drops to 9

Officials deemed last year’s use of 10 privately owned snow removal trucks too costly for the county.
Wednesday, October 29, 2003 | 12:00 a.m. CST; updated 3:17 a.m. CDT, Friday, July 4, 2008

One less truck will be used to remove snow and ice from county streets this winter.

The Boone County Commission decided to use nine trucks, down from the 10 it used last year, because of the high cost associated with contracting for snow removal. Commissioners Tuesday informally decided to accept two bids: one from Highpoint Enterprises that would provide six trucks at a cost of $200 an hour, and another from Diamond “C” Services for three trucks at $250 an hour.

Public Works Director David Mink told the commission that a nine-truck arrangement would allow contractors to clear a 4-inch snowfall in around 12 hours, at a cost of about $23,500. Last week, Mink proposed that the county contract for 15 trucks from six private companies because of what he called poor snow removal in the Georgetown subdivision last year. Just before Tuesday’s vote, he said 10 would be good enough.

“We had 10 last year, and we could live with 10 this year,” he said, before the commission ultimately decided on nine trucks.

Southern District Commissioner Karen Miller noted that last year’s snow- and ice-clearing generated no complaints.

“If anything, there were compliments,” she said.

Mink, however, warned that commissioners would have to “understand that service will be deteriorated” this year because of the reduction.

Commissioners were skeptical about the cost of contracting for 15 trucks.

“If we have a heavy snow year, we’re going to spend a tremendous amount of money,” Northern District Commissioner Skip Elkin said.

Insurance and the unpredictable nature of weather are the factors that make snow removal so expensive.

“It’s a high-risk job because you don’t know how much work you will get,” county buyer Marlene Ridgway said.

Last year, the county spent between $200 and $285 an hour per truck on snow removal, racking up a total bill of about $150,000. Unlike this year, however, companies in 2002 were bidding on specific areas they wanted to clear.

It is hard to compare the cost from year to year because the specifications changed, Ridgway said. For example, in 2000, companies submitted bids based on inches of snow to be cleared; this year, companies submitted bids on a per-hour basis.

Boone is the only county in Missouri that contracts for snow removal by private vendors, Ridgway said. The contractors will clear snow and ice from paved roadways across the county, while public works crews will use motor graders on gravel roads.

In-house removal of snow on all the county’s roads isn’t feasible, Ridgway said.

“There is too much roadway to be maintained by our equipment or people,” Ridgway said.

Overall, snow removal is becoming less expensive for the county, Ridgway said. Also, service and county control over the quality of clearing have improved.

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