January 26, 2022

‘SNOW’ IT ALL: City report highlights preparations for winter weather in downtown

Public works director details parking situation in downtown snow removal district

Rather than storing their vehicles on streets during winter storms, Newton Public Works Director Jody Rhone is asking all business owners and tenants in the downtown snow removal district to park in the nearby public parking lots.

“We would much rather have those cars in the parking lots than on the streets,” he said. “With the big equipment that we use, we can’t work right tight around cars out on the street. We’ll deal with it later in the parking lots. And you can leave your car out in the parking lots for 72 hours.”

Currently there are five, free parking lots in downtown Newton:

• The lot across the street from Best Western Holiday Manor in the northeast corner of West Third Street North and North Second Avenue West intersection.

• The lot directly south of the Newton Public Library along North Third Avenue West between West Second Street North and First Street North.

• The lot directly behind Kayla’s Dance Company, at the southwest corner of the East Second Street North and North Third Avenue East intersection.

• The lot behind Maid-Rite and next to Viet Thai taste, at the northeast corner of the West Third Street South and South Second Avenue West intersection.

• The lot behind PJ’s Deli, at the northeast corner of the First Street South and South Second Avenue East intersection.

Rhone provided a staff report to city council members recently, giving residents who tuned in an update on snow removal operations in the downtown district.

The downtown district has changed over the past few years, Rhone said. More residents are living downtown, which is an area of Newton where snow removal operations differ from any other part of town. Rhone prepared a meeting last week to educate those in the downtown district, mirroring his Nov. 15 staff report.

Snow removal operations in Newton consist of city staff plowing streets during and immediately after heavy snowfall. When the snowstorm subsides, Rhone said the city prioritizes which streets need more attention. Street priority is classified numerically, one through four with one being the higher priority.

Of course, the city has its main arterials, or primary routes of traffic that staff will give the most amount of attention to during snowstorms. The downtown district is included in that. Rhone noted snow plowing is different from snow hauling; typically, the night after a storm, city staff will come in and haul the snow away.

“Ultimately, we come and we pull all of that snow to the center of the street and then we haul it away and we haul it out behind our shop on Highway 14,” he said.

From North Fourth Avenue to South Second Avenue and from West Fourth Street to East Fourth Street is considered the downtown snow removal district, with some exceptions. During hauling operations — which is officially declared by the city — all parking is prohibited in the downtown snow removal district.

To check the status of the downtown snow removal district, the city instructs residents call 641-792-0411. The declaration must be made by the city by 7 p.m. the evening the hauling operations take place. The city will also communicate its declarations on its website and through its alert notifications.

Rhone said the city’s streetscape projects will affect the downtown snow removal district as the years go by. As the city narrows the streets and create green spaces remote from the nearby sidewalks, Rhone said the ultimate goal is to create snow storage areas and have staff only haul snow away from the square.

“We can plow that just as we would any other residential street and then have a place for the snow to get piled that’s not on the sidewalk,” Rhone said. “So as we continue to do these streetscape projects … we will just keep reducing this amount that we actually have to haul the snow away from.”

Four more streetscape projects south of First Avenue are planned for next year.

In the past, parking overnight in the district was prohibited from Oct. 30 to April 1. The city changed its ordinance several years ago.

So, now, any business owner or resident who lives in the downtown snow removal district can still park on the streets in that area as long as it is not between midnight and 6 a.m. when snow hauling operations have been declared by the City of Newton.

On-street parking throughout the city, except in the downtown snow removal district, is prohibited when snow reaches two inches of accumulation. When the two-inch threshold is met, the city will declare snow plowing operations. At that time, ticketing of vehicles parked on city streets will begin.

“We don’t want to ticket people,” Rhone said. “That is not the goal. The goal is to get cars off the streets so we can clean the snow up.”

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

Christopher Braunschweig

Reporter with a strong penchant for community journalism.