St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman, responding to a chorus of complaints about slick and bumpy city streets following last week’s storm, is doubling the city’s use of salt and sand, speeding up the purchase of new trucks and shaking up management of its street maintenance division.
“It is clear after a thorough review that the city did not live up to … expectations,” the mayor said about St. Paul’s response to the snowstorm and polar blast.
The city had pretreated its streets with a brine solution, but that was washed away by rain before the snow arrived and temperatures plunged. The city then failed to re-treat the streets, spokesman Joe Campbell said.
Social media were ablaze with comments from residents about the impassable streets. Campbell said that the city got about 150 comments on its Facebook page, along with numerous tweets and calls to the mayor’s office.
Residents complained about the poor condition of St. Paul’s streets, which some compared unfavorably with those of Minneapolis. “I love St. Paul and have lived here for 17 years but the winter snow removal is terrible,” one man wrote.
The mayor “got the message that we need to do this better,” Campbell said.
Coleman lost no time in launching an internal review of what happened — in itself an unusual step — then issued a three-pronged strategy to more aggressively address snow removal.
Starting Sunday morning, St. Paul began using 800 pounds of salt and/or sand per lane mile, about twice what the city had been applying to the streets.
Coleman also is redirecting $2.2 million in the Public Works capital budget to accelerate the purchase of six trucks that combine plowing and sanding/salting functions. Nine new trucks already are slated in the next three months to be added to the city’s fleet, which now numbers about 100.
Finally, Coleman is replacing Street Maintenance Manager Kevin Nelson with City Engineer John Maczko, who will oversee snow removal on an interim basis. “It’s about bringing in a fresh set of eyes and new ideas,” Campbell said.
Most salt requires temperatures of at least 15 degrees and sunshine before it can start gnawing into the ice pack. However, the Weather Service said that frigid conditions in the single digits and below zero are forecast for the next few days.