DULUTH – On a sunny June day with temperatures in the 80s, city officials were already talking about snowstorms.
A budget shortfall caused by the COVID-19 pandemic means Duluth will not start enforcing snow emergencies during the upcoming winter, delaying an overhaul approved by the City Council last fall.
It’s been more than a dozen year since Duluth declared a snow emergency because most of the city’s 120 miles of plow routes aren’t marked.
Duluth was supposed to spend more than $500,000 to install 2,800 signs designating streets from which residents would have to temporarily remove their cars in the case of an emergency declaration, creating a clear path for plows.
But Noah Schuchman, the city’s chief administrative officer, said officials “are not feeling comfortable extending that money at this point,” when Duluth faces a budget hole of up to $38 million because of steep revenue drops and unexpected costs related to the coronavirus crisis.
“It just would not be fair to enforce without the signage,” Schuchman said at a news conference Wednesday, adding that the city plans to revisit the issue next spring.
City staff are working on plans to manage on-street parking this winter so that plow drivers can do their jobs “as quickly and efficiently as possible,” Schuchman said. Duluth will enforce its on-street parking ordinances, which require drivers to alternate between parking on even and odd numbered sides of the streets on a weekly basis.
The city has taken other measures to reckon with its unexpected financial problems, though officials have yet to release a plan showing how Duluth will make up for projected losses this year. Most recently officials negotiated a deal with staff belonging to the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, Duluth’s largest bargaining unit, that will save about $900,000 by requiring those city employees to take six unpaid days off in 2020.