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January Snow/Ice Emergency Council Discussion
Wednesday, February 1, 2012 11:50:16 AM - Monroe Ohio

Public Works Committee and Public Safety Committee Jan 30, 2012 Minutes

By Angela S. Wasson 

January 30, 2012
The Public Works Committee and Public Safety Committee of Council met at 6:00 pm in the Council Library located at 233 South Main Street, Monroe, Ohio.

Present were: Steve Black, Council Member; Todd Hickman, Council Member; Bob Kelley, Vice Mayor, William J. Brock, City Manager; Gregory C. Homer, Chief of Police; Mark A. Neu, Fire Chief; Daniel J. Arthur, Director of Public Works; Gary Morton, Street Superintendent; and Angela S. Wasson, Assistant to the City Manager/Clerk of Council.

Mr. Kelley brought up how the recent ice storm was dealt with, why things transpired the way they did, and who is actually in control.
Chief Homer explained that when we have a prediction of rain changing to snow or going to snow the officers go out to the bridges hitting their breaks and as soon as it begins to get slippery we call Public Works. He further explained that it changed very quickly and his department made phone calls as soon as it started. Crash reports were coming in before Public Works could get here because it hit so quickly.
Mr. Arthur explained that Public Works received the call around 8 pm and we tried to stage it to have five people initially. The first person was in at 8:13 pm and the roads seemed fine, but he already called the first five guys in and then in about half an hour it got worse and he called three other guys in. Mr. Arthur received reports from Butler County EMA of what it was supposed to be like, which was start out as rain then freezing rain and then snow. It was a mix and it didn’t sound like the ice was going to start until 10 or 12 and it was supposed to start out as rain and it was supposed to be up into the 30’s and it never rose up to that. He called a couple of the water guys about 10 to come in and saved two other guys to come in the next day to hit some of the problem areas.
Mr. Brock reported that we are down a total of four employees.
Mr. Kelley stated that one was planned through budget reduction and three that were missing. He sought confirmation from Mr. Brock that if there is a snow emergency you cannot call anyone from the outside to help because you would worry about a grievance. Mr. Brock replied that if there are emergency conditions we can attack it.
Mr. Kelley referenced discussion in the past about having a list of people that we could go to if we were having a problem. Mr. Brock noted that it could be a declaration of an emergency by the Sheriff as well, which he did not believe he declared.
Mr. Kelley pointed out that as City Manager, Mr. Brock has the ability to declare a snow emergency as City Manager. We are already shorthanded and we have had conversations in the past about having a list of people that could help. We have people that have offered to help and we are not taking the steps to do that.
Mr. Arthur wondered about a liability of having citizens driving city trucks?
Mr. Brock stated the ice was coming down and the salt was down and it didn’t matter.
Mr. Kelley stated he drove from Monroe and as soon as you hit the Middletown corporate line you could drive without sliding around and reports from Lebanon were the same approximately 9:30. We had 20 plus reported accidents. Chief Homer advised there more than 20.
Mr. Kelley asked Chief Neu how many of his vehicles were off the road. Chief Neu advised there were two pieces of equipment and the Assistant Fire Chief’s vehicle.
Mr. Brock advised reports were received from other jurisdictions that had the same issues as Monroe.
Mr. Kelley stated that things going well in other jurisdictions and they were not going well here. We need to try to figure out a way to fix things. Mr. Brock said can we better in reacting to these storms.
Mr. Hickman advised Middletown was throwing down salt and he found it odd that Middletown is in dire straits, as far as money, and they were already throwing salt down and we were not. Middletown was on the ball and we were not.
Mr. Brock asked if a policy was needed to have employees in for preparation. For example, if they are calling for precipitation this weekend and we have guys in paying them overtime and nothing happens.
Mr. Kelley asked how many of the Public Works’ employees live in the City. Mr. Arthur advised that none of them do. In response to Mr. Black’s question, Mr. Arthur advised they are 15 to 20 minutes away.
Mr. Hickman asked what information Middletown received that Monroe didn’t. Mr. Brock advised Middletown operates under a different program. They have employees in on voluntary overtime already, we were reacting to when is it going to hit and then come in; this was an ice storm.
Mr. Arthur explained the County also receives calls from the Sheriff to come in and they lost a third of their fleet off the side of the road. Each one of the storms are different. Thursday they were calling for an inch and we didn’t get anything. When we first get told it is starting to get slick, we call the employees in. He further explained that he didn’t pretreat as the rain would have washed the brine away.
Mr. Black asked about using sand. Mr. Arthur replied that sand doesn’t have any de-icing capabilities and it would have gotten covered up. Most places have gotten away from sand.

Mr. Kelley asked what roads are taken care of first and Mr. Arthur advised that the hills, including residential hills, and the main routes.
Mr. Morton explained that every one of our routes have priority one, two, and three streets and all of our drivers know his priorities. If you keep your thoroughfares and your feeders clean then once you get out of your subdivision you can travel about. It isn’t like we always operate on the police department calling us in. We do schedule events. We didn’t schedule this event because it was rain to sleet to ice. It went to all ice first. Our trucks were backing up the streets. We could have had a weather pattern that stalled on top of us.
Chief Homer said we were already getting hit bad in Monroe and it was still raining in Lebanon.
Mr. Morton did not feel the employees did anything wrong and it wasn’t even bad when they first came in and then it changed fast. He is concerned about anyone in some of his trucks that is not experienced as some of them are junk. He noted that his Crew Leader had indicated it had been one of the worse ice storms he saw in a really long time.
Mr. Arthur noted that comparing Middletown to Monroe is hard because Middletown is more flat.
Mr. Morton commented that it is confusing as we have been told to back off because of budget priorities.
Mr. Kelley pointed out that we are operating with lower manpower, but we are not operating below the levels in 2004 and we are in better shape financially. The main roads were not passable. He asked Chief Homer if he calls in some of the officers and lieutenants that live in town. Chief Homer acknowledged that he does; however, some of them had difficulty getting to work because the roads were slick.
Mr. Black wondered if an emergency should have been called. Mr. Brock advised that an emergency is to get parked cars off the road and that would not have helped.
Mr. Kelley felt it was a good idea to make sure the Assistant Fire Chief can get in to work if the Fire Chief is not available. Mr. Arthur agreed if his department could get to his house. Mr. Morton stated that trucks were driving backwards on Cincinnati-Dayton Road putting salt down so they could get traction.
Mr. Black asked if there was anything we could have done to make it better. Mr. Arthur would have liked to have another hour to see if getting salt down earlier would have helped, but other communities did and it didn’t help. As fast as it hit it would not have done any good.

Mr. Kelley asked how the forecast of a prolonged ice storm is handled. Mr. Morton replied that you hope that the temperatures are good and you can pretreat, but with salt the cars knock it off the road, with ice you don’t brine on a wet road because usually rain comes in first and it will wash away.

Mr. Kelley inquired about the weather radar. Chief Homer explained that the dispatchers have the radar on 24/7 and his dispatchers indicated that it was moving so quick and erratic and they couldn’t keep track of it.
Mr. Kelley asked what would happen if we had a life threatening incident and they couldn’t get to them. Mr. Brock responded that it has happened in the past.
Mr. Arthur replied to Mr. Black’s question that the overtime for Public Works was reduced by 25%. Mr. Black felt the overtime concern is not valid because we have been blessed with good weather.
Mr. Morton pointed out that the salt budget was cut by 50% and we do not know what is coming in February. He noted that 300 tons were used on this event, which is a lot..
Mr. Hickman asked how long it takes to salt State Route 63. Mr. Morton indicated that it is five miles with four lanes, so it takes a lot of time. He has two trucks dedicated to State Route 63 and Cincinnati-Dayton Road is a different route and would have been treated with one of the first five employees called in. Mr. Hickman stated it was not one of the first ones that was hit.
Mr. Kelley felt that there comes a time when we have to balance out the safety and the buget. Mr. Brock informed him that the budget didn’t affect this and they followed the procedure normally followed.
Mr. Black stated that when we start talking about localized events, the safety and protection of our residents is paramount over the budget.
Mr. Kelley suggested assistance to those employees that are called to come in. Mr. Arthur had no objection to this, but that means we are pulling someone off of the main roads.
Mr. Kelley asked about tire chains and Mr. Morton replied that it has been discussed.
Chief Neu stated he knew at 4:40 Butler County was opening up the EOC and perhaps he could have made a call to Mr. Arthur or Mr. Brock. He felt we just need to look at this event and what can we learn from it. We get the information about storms and we can call the EMA and get better information, but we are getting the information.
Mr. Morton stated that we typically get rave reviews from everyone around and asked that the record that we typically have be taken into consideration and that this event was really that bad.
Mr. Brock advised that perhaps the Assistant Fire Chief could have handled the situation from his house and didn’t really need to be out.
Mr. Black suggested that if someone from one of the departments is going to need to get out then they could find a different place to park. Mr. Hickman felt that Public Works needs to focus on the roads.
Mr. Black asked who to contact concerning trash collection issues. Mr. Brock advised to call the Utility Clerk.
Mr. Brock reported another meeting will be called to discuss the water meter situation and the water agreement with Butler County. Mr. Arthur noted the water agreement is close to $1.00 savings, but the closing of Diversapak hurt Monroe.

The Public Works Committee meeting adjourned at 7:34 pm.

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