Main Street business owner wonders if snow could be plowed differently
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By LeAnn R. Ralph
COLFAX — The owner of a business on Main Street in Colfax is wondering if snow could be plowed differently so there are no snow piles left at the curb.
A pile of snow along the curb makes it difficult for people to park along Main Street and makes it difficult for them to climb over the snow to reach the sidewalk, said Susan LaNou, owner of Deluxe Beauty Salon on Main Street, at the Colfax Village Board’s January 9 meeting.
LaNou spoke to the village board during the public comments portion of the meeting.
At issue was a recent snowfall of heavy, wet snow that dumped between six and 10 inches around the area.
The public works employees do the best they can, especially when the snow is heavy and wet, said Jody Albricht, village president.
Would it be possible to plow to one side or the other, rather than down the middle of the street? LaNou asked.
Plowing to one side or the other could be a compromise and could be done one side following a snowfall and the other side with the next snowfall, she said, noting that the beauty shop is not the only business on Main Street that has problems with the snowbanks along the curb.
The village crew is stuck waiting until the next day to plow snow if it is still snowing at 7 a.m., or if it starts snowing during the day, Albricht said.
Public works employees plow snow at night or early in the morning on Main Street to avoid the traffic coming through town. The snow is plowed into a windrow and then hauled away, or sometimes the snow is plowed into the middle of a side street until it can be hauled away later in the day.
There were 32 inches of snow along the curb, and as a business owner, LaNou said she is responsible for clearing the sidewalk.
Village Trustee Anne Jenson, who also is the owner of a A Little Slice of Italy on Main Street, said she is at her business as early as 3 a.m. or 4 a.m., and the village crews have been plowing snow all night long already.
At 5 a.m., there are cars everywhere on Main Street, and it is no longer safe to plow snow, she said.
LaNou said it was not safe for people to climb over the snowbank to get to her business, and it is not safe for people to park five feet out from the curb.
Readers should note that the village of Colfax does have a Skid Steer with a snowblower attachment that is used to clear snow along Main Street at the curb. The village’s dump truck must drive along next to the snowblower to catch the snow.
If traffic has already started driving through town when the Skid Steer with a snowblower and the dump truck are out in the street, there is not enough room for the snow removal equipment and the traffic, and clearing the snowbanks along the curb often must wait until the next night.
Could people coming to your business have someone drop them off and then come and pick them? Jenson asked.
Jenson acknowledged that parking is not so much of an issue for her business because people can park in the Synergy Cooperative parking lot and then cross the street at the crosswalk where the snow has been cleared from the curb.
Not everyone has someone who can drive them for their hair appointment, and Colfax does not have a taxi service that could pick people up and drop them off at the beauty salon, LaNou said.
Rand Bates, director of public works, posed a question.
What would be worse? If half the snow is plowed from the middle of the street, or if all of the snow from the street is plowed to one side? Bates asked.
If all of the snow was plowed to one side, someone would have to open a path to each business, because 66 feet worth of snow is “lots of snow,” he said.
According to state law, all roads must have a 66-foot right-of-way, although state highways are usually much wider than that.
LaNou said she understood that the three public works department employees have a difficult job when it snows and that snowfalls do not always come at a time that makes it convenient to plow snow.
When the timing of the snow and the conditions of the snow make a snow bank at the curb, that creates difficult conditions for business owners and their customers, she said.
Albricht said he understood the concern but that it was time to move on to other agenda items.
The issue of snowplowing on Main Street was not an action item on the agenda, so the village board cannot take up any motions, said Lynn Niggemann, village administrator-clerk-treasurer.
According to legal opinions about the state’s open meetings law, boards can ask clarifying questions during public comments but cannot discuss the issue at hand and cannot make any motions pertaining to anything not specifically on the agenda.
When the newest public works employee, Brett Sajdera, was hired, Don Logslett was ready to retire, and the village board decided the new employee did not have to obtain water and wastewater certifications right away, Bates said.
Sajdera would like to “step up” and is interested in taking the classes and getting his licenses now, he said.
Sajdera started his employment with the village of Colfax on October 17, 2022.
The village has had some difficulty with retaining new public works employees lately. The new hires work for a couple of months or a year, then they take a position with another municipality where the pay and/or the health insurance is better.
What is the cost to the village? Jenson asked.
Colfax has a policy that if the employee leaves within two years, the employee is responsible for the cost of the training and certification.
The village pays for travel, food and lodging, Niggemann said.
It would be in the best interests of the village for Sajdera to get the training and obtain certification, said Gary Stene, village trustee.
Since Sajdera wants to do it, and the village board is not requiring it right now, maybe there will be better results, said Margaret Burcham, village trustee.
The Colfax Village Board unanimously approved moving forward with water and wastewater training for Brett Sajdera.
In other business, the Colfax Village Board:
• Approved a bartender operator’s license for Debra Holzhueter (Viking Bowl) from January 9 to June 30, 2023.
Following a closed session, the Colfax Village Board approved hiring two part-time patrol officers for the Colfax Police Department: Brandon Larson at $18 per hour, and Kyle Knotz, who previously worked as a part-time officer for the village, at $21 per hour.