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Local

Supervisors revising snow ordinance

First reading OKs an extra hour of clearing, change from ordinance to policy

A man clears snow off his car parked along the town square in Newton. The Jasper County Board of Supervisors held a public hearing to discuss changes in its snow ordinance to deal with a more widespread type of snow clearing. Jasper County Engineer Russ Stutt proposed another hour be added to crews' clear schedule.
A man clears snow off his car parked along the town square in Newton. The Jasper County Board of Supervisors held a public hearing to discuss changes in its snow ordinance to deal with a more widespread type of snow clearing. Jasper County Engineer Russ Stutt proposed another hour be added to crews' clear schedule.

To more efficiently address county snow removal procedures, the board of supervisors decided to change the snow ordinance into a policy, allowing for quicker amendments when needed. If the amendments pass, Jasper County may also receive an extra hour of plow time.

Brandon Talsma, chair of the Jasper County Board of Supervisors, said the ordinance currently in place allows elected officials to approve changes after three public readings. Bringing it down to a policy rather than an ordinance gives supervisors the opportunity to skip that step altogether.

“It’s easy to make changes to it,” Talsma said before he and his fellow supervisors on Tuesday morning closed the first public hearing regarding the issue.

No public comments were provided to the board of supervisors. However, Jasper County Engineer Russ Stutt wanted to point out a recommendation he made to change the normal hours of snow removal operation to 4:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. from 4:30 a.m. to 4 p.m., giving truck-mounted snow plow crews an extra hour.

Talsma also noted these changes are still works in progress. Supervisors, he said, are “still debating about how to go about it.” Stutt also recommended the board take a look at the section of the ordinance marked “emergency,” which can only be declared by the sheriff’s office or a physician’s office.

Hours of operation could be affected if an emergency is declared.

According to county documents, sequence of service may be suspended, especially in a declared emergency condition where loss of life is probable, serious injury has occurred or extensive loss of property is imminent. At such time, Jasper County will be responding to the emergency conditions.

Further suspension of services will occur if the governor of Iowa proclaims a state disaster plan or the county chairperson implements a Jasper County disaster plan. If such a circumstance occurs, county personnel and equipment shall be subject to the direction of the governor or board of supervisors.

At the Jan. 28 board meeting, the supervisors approved the county engineer’s recommended public hearing dates for Feb. 11, 18 and 25 to discuss changes to the snow ordinance (IV-2). Stutt told supervisors he would present an amendments by the public hearing dates.

Jasper County Treasurer Doug Bishop public provided input about the snow ordinance to supervisors a few weeks prior to the first hearing. Speaking as a private citizen, Bishop had a concern about services in the more rural areas of the county, even with the proposed time change.

Their biggest commuting times, he argued, are in the morning and at night. The eastbound and westbound roads especially have a rough time with blowing snow and drift formations. Wet snow also turns the roads into an ice skating rink. This scenario happened in Baxter closer to the New Year, he said.

“One of them actually slid off and went off in the ditch with their kids,” Bishop said. “The statement in Baxter is: If you start off in the morning and you can make to (Iowa Highway) 330 or maybe to Highway 14 you’ll be alright, but you better pray your way all the way there because it’s a solid sheet of ice.”

Sully is the same way, Bishop said. From discussions the county treasurer had with people of Sully, there was apparently a patch of road where the cars lined up like a junkyard. Even though the board of supervisors set the policy, Bishop recommended somebody should clear streets at night for the county.

“I know the road guys are doing the best they can with the hours they’re presented, but I think we probably need to take on some part-timers or do something that can run all night long and keep these roads a little bit safe,” Bishop said.

Contact Christopher Braunschweig at 641-792-3121 ext. 6560 or cbraunschweig@newtondailynews.com

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