By Brent Schlapkohl's estimation, he has slid through three stop signs on Highland Park side streets over the past few days.

That's three more than he's comfortable with.

"I think this has been the worst year ever for them not plowing or salting," he said Tuesday, referring to the city of St. Paul.

From East Bethel to Eagan and Minnetonka to Minneapolis, folks in neighborhoods are slipping, sliding and tumbling on ice-covered streets. Drivers are avoiding their typical backroad routes in favor of thoroughfares that might have more traffic but are less slick. Many are accusing public works officials of working at a glacial pace to melt the ice.

Where's the salt? Where are the plows? Where's the aspirin?

Public works officials from around the metro say their crews are doing their jobs but that the recent weather is undermining them. Frequent wimpy snowfalls of 1 to 2 inches and a weekend warmup followed by a freeze just make for a plain old slippery mess, they say.

"What we're seeing now with ice is because we had a warm day," said Mike Kennedy of the Minneapolis Public Works Department. "The common problem is it happens everywhere at the same time. The different agencies all have a certain level of ability to respond, and they can't be everywhere at once."

As of Monday, the Twin Cities had picked up 16 inches of snow this month; and Tuesday's accumulation will make this one of the snowiest Decembers on record.

"It's just frustrating as heck right now," said John Maczko, St. Paul's city engineer.

Residential streets, in St. Paul and Minneapolis particularly, do tend to be further down on the priority list because they are used less frequently and can be difficult to get to because of parked cars, officials say. Because there haven't been many big snowfalls, which trigger snow emergencies and get cars off the streets for curb-to-curb cleaning, the amounts that have fallen have been packed down from traffic.

"With the every-other-day storms, we don't get a chance to get caught up," Maczko said.

Whatever the reasons, many unhappy folks are calling their cities and demanding service.

Kale Duden said there are foot-high ridges of ice at the intersection near her home in the Camden neighborhood of Minneapolis. She hasn't seen salt or sand go down, and being told by the city on Monday that it would be a couple of days before crews got out her way wasn't satisfactory.

She said the city did a "horrid job" of managing the melt and freeze.

Pat Wolesky tried to take a walk around her Eagan neighborhood Tuesday but found the streets to be "sheets of ice."

"I realize that it rained on Friday and then froze, but it's now the following Tuesday and they have not sanded or salted a bit as far as I can tell," she said.

It was a similar situation in the north metro. "We've joked that the ice on our street is enough to skate on," said Jen Besser of Maple Grove.

Jason Chaffee wasn't laughing. After spending the past 12 years in Seattle, the Minneapolis resident got a rude reintroduction to Minnesota winter after slipping on ice after getting out of his truck Sunday night. "I fell so hard I ripped a hole in my jeans, bloody palms, elbows. The whole nine yards," he said. He also smashed up a wok he received as a Christmas gift.

Some people wondered whether cities are purposely using less salt or putting fewer plows on the roads because of budget concerns. With a major state deficit looming, many municipalities are looking at ways to save money.

While it can be costly to remove snow and ice, several city officials said they aren't changing their policies.

"We're not doing anything different," Kennedy said.

Ditto in Blaine, Savage and Shoreview.

St. Paul and Coon Rapids are trying to use less salt, but officials say they've have either increased the frequency of plowing or the use of de-icing chemicals.

Brian Wagstrom, Minnetonka Public Works director, says there's no shortage of salt and no budget constraints preventing its use in his city. But he's quick to note that no street department deals well with ice. "It's a solid surface that sand and salt don't penetrate very easily. To get that loose takes a lot of work."

In Plymouth, some of the slickest streets are residential cul de sacs that lack the traffic need to help wear ice off, said Gary Smith, street maintenance supervisor.

"The city of Plymouth has nearly 800 cul de sacs, so we have 800 miniature skating rinks."

Staff writers Laurie Blake, David Peterson and Norm Draper contributed to this report.

Chris Havens • 651-298-1542