St. Paul Public Works aims for smoother plowing efforts this winter

St. Paul Public Works aims for smoother plowing efforts this winter

St. Paul Public Works aims for smoother plowing efforts this winter

It’s no secret that problems and complaints over snow-plowed roads, or the lack of them, in St. Paul last winter were piled up as high as the mounds public works crews were tasked with cleaning up. However, city officials say those challenges have helped prepare crews for a more successful winter clean-up this year, and neighbors say they’re optimistic, too.

“It was brutal. It was a brutal winter. My first Minnesota winter!” Eddie Jreidini laughed. 

It was an overwhelming winter even for the most seasoned Minnesotans. Officials tallied it as the third-snowiest on record.

“The snow was a lot,” Jackie Smalley said. 

“It just couldn’t be kept up with. It seems like every other week there was another three to five inches,” Jreidini added.

While the almost-constant snowfall brought clean-up delays and frustrations for neighbors, Public Works Director Sean Kershaw says his department has used the off-season to problem-solve.

“It was a tough year, but we learned a lot,” Kershaw said. 

In January, there were three things Kershaw told 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS that he hoped to have by this upcoming winter: computerized systems, as well as more pick-up plows and staff. Unfortunately, Kershaw says there’s been a snag in those hopes. He says digital plow routing systems likely won’t be a reality until the 2024-25 season.

“What we use right now are routes on paper clipboards that are from the 90s,” Kershaw explained. “So when we have the system in place, there will be a monitor in each truck that gives turn-by-turn instructions to the drivers, and we think that will be more efficient and help us get through our routes faster.”

The good news is, Kershaw says the department has been able to add more pick-up plows to the fleet, which he says are better for cleaning smaller, residential streets. He says when it comes to plow drivers, he says he hopes “to be fully staffed by the middle of December.” Kershaw says his department is currently down about five to ten plow drivers. 

A new communication system is also planned to roll out in the city this winter, Kershaw says. It’s an alert system that doesn’t require residents to sign up and will operate in tandem with the notices the city already puts out. 

“This Everbridge system is better at locating people who are in the geometry of the city and sending them a notice. We think that will help expand the number of people who know what’s happening and where they can move their cars,” he said. 

In the end, Kershaw says snow clean-up takes a village, which Smalley says she agrees with. And she says she hopes those who live and visit St. Paul this winter take more initiative and pay attention.

“Just be more mindful of where you park and know that if there is a snow emergency, get out and move your car,” she said. “Because when people park in front of my street and stay for a few days, and then they move their car and there’s a giant mound on my street, I have to live with for the rest of the season.”

To sign up for city snow alerts, click here.