WILLMAR — The front blades, side wings and sanders had already been removed from a couple of the trucks in the fleet of vehicles for the Minnesota Department of Transportation’s District 8, headquartered in Willmar.
After all, crews had been out last week doing spring maintenance work on guardrails. But after hearing the snowy forecast for west central Minnesota, crews brought the vehicles back into the shop on Monday to refit them for another round of snow removal duty.
“We put everything back on them,” said Denny Marty, MnDOT District 8 maintenance supervisor.
Marty also reset the staffing schedule to make sure equipment can run a 3 a.m.-to-10 p.m. snow removal route if need be. That included calling part-time plow drivers who had thought they were done for the season, said Marty.
With road salt and chemicals still in stock, Marty said crews were ready to handle whatever Mother Nature threw at them.
The Kandiyohi County Highway Department was also ready for another round of snow action.
The county typically doesn’t remove all the snow equipment from its maintenance vehicles until April 15 but a few trucks had some gear removed and were brought back into the shop Monday to get prepped for duty, said Public Works Director Gary Danielson.
“You never want to take too much snow stuff until you know you’re past the snow season,” said Danielson.
An April storm means another hit on an already expensive snow season, said Danielson. “It puts us into a bad winter stage,” he said.
From October 2012 through March of this year, the county spent $637,000 to deal with snow and ice.
The average bill is $500,000, said Danielson.
Last year the county spent a mere $250,000 because of an extremely mild winter season, which left more money for other types of summer road maintenance work.
That scenario will be reversed this year. With more of the budget dedicated to snow removal, there will be less money available for overlay and gravel projects.
The same is true for the state.
Marty said MnDOT may have to shift money and adjust summer maintenance projects to offset a budget plagued with an extended winter season.
Predictions for heavy, wet snow to hit the region today and into Thursday will present extra challenges for snowplow drivers.
“Wet stuff is hard to push,” said Marty. “Plow operators cannot get up on speed. It’s going to be a lot slower going.”
Marty begged for patience from motorists.
“Bear with us for one more storm,” he said.
Residents should be aware that snow removal on county gravel roads could be delayed.
Dave Fritz, Kandiyohi County highway maintenance supervisor, said gravel roads have thawed and gotten soft this spring.
Plow blades would dig into the edge of a gravel road while trying to move snow and the truck could literally drive over the plow.
It’s happened in the past, said Fritz.
Although the trucks were ready to roll on Tuesday, Fritz said crews were not necessarily excited about tackling yet another winter situation.
“All the fellas are ready for spring,” said Fritz. “No doubt about it.”