After last weeks ice and snow storms, drivers found that many roads were not cleared, and in some areas, were mostly a sheet of ice from Thursday to Monday. Where drivers are frustrated about the conditions, the Altus Street Department is still very active in keeping the roads as safe as possible.
“This stuff got packed real tight,” said Street Commissioner Holmes Willis. “It was tough to keep up with. The traffic packs it down and makes it slick as ice.”
The Street Department has been activly spreading limestone to create traction while snow and ice build up on the roads. “Sometimes we have to do a few layers of the stuff,” Willis said. So far they have spread about 250 tons of 3/8 limestone chips, a soft rock material that can easily wear away. Eventually the limestone will be cleaned up at the end of winter to be reused for gravel in alley ways.
The use of limestone is preferred to rock salt to protect against possible damage salt can cause to automobiles. “I’ve been in areas and have seen vehicle literally eaten up from salt,” Willis said. “I don’t think citizens want to deal with that. It is good, it has its place, but if people want me to use it I couldn’t.” Willis explained there is no equipment to spread salt, or a building to store it in. “It would be costly and the City would have to come up with funds to build it.”
Some citizens have asked why the City doesn’t plow the roads. “The City doesn’t own a plow,” Willis informed. The Oklahoma Department of Transportation does have the ability to plow roads, however they were asked not to ever since residents and businesses complained 17 years back about walls of snow that result at the end of driveways blocking access to and from the road.
“They were very angry,” Willis said. “So the City said ‘We won’t do it again.’ The City doesn’t have all the personnel to clean up driveways after the snow plow goes by.”
As far as prepping the roads in advance, Holmes explained that for the amount of snowfall annually it would be too expensive saying, “What would be sad is if the City spends a quarter million dollars to prevent something that happens less that once a year.”
Willis asks that citizens remain patient, and stated that with the Street Department’s help and some sunshine,”in a few days it will melt.”
“We’ve just got five people down here, six including myself,” Willis said. “They did wonderful. They’ve been here for years. We get out sometimes at two in the morning. When it starts, we go. As far as employees, I don’t think we can find anymore men that are more dedicated that they are. We’re very thankful for the tax payers and so we are willing to service the tax payer.”