City shells out funds for snow removal

 Messenger photo by John Matuszak
 Columbus City Councilman Andrew Ginther looks over part of the snow removal fleet with Rick Tilton, assistant director of the public services department, prior to a July 9 vote to spend $1.4 million to boost the fleet with new trucks, plows and salt spreaders.

Columbus residents can expect a big snow job from City Hall this winter.

In this case, it will come in the form of additional trucks, plows and salt spreaders to clear streets when the white stuff returns.

City Council on July 9 passed two ordinances to spend $1.4 million to augment the snow removal fleet.

One ordinance will allow the city to spend $1 million to purchase eight new dump trucks, replacing worn-out vehicles, and four new plows that can be used when other plows are being repaired.

The second ordinance authorizes spending about $400,000 for 17 new plows and 13 slat spreaders that can be attached to vehicles already in the fleet.

The expenditures will boost the snow removal fleet to 125 vehicles, including 108 with plows.

According to Councilman Andrew Ginther, chairman of the utilities committee, this is the first time Columbus will be retrofitting existing vehicles to allow plows and spreaders to be attached.

The public utilities department received the green light earlier this year to spend $121,671 for five vehicles to be used on neighborhood streets. Council will consider spending another $80,000 for plows and spreaders for the trucks later this year.

The purchases are part of a plan proposed by Mayor Michael Coleman, after receiving criticism that streets weren’t cleared quickly enough following a February blizzard.

Coleman has also proposed that GPS tracking devices be added to 25 trucks, so they can be directed to snowed-in areas, and that employees outside of the public service department be trained to survey streets and decide where work needs to be directed. Plans are also being drawn up for snow removal on narrow, residential streets.

Columbus spent $2.1 million on snow removal last winter, officials reported.

While the new equipment will keep the streets clear of snow, council also approved spending to help keep streets safe from crime.

Council approved spending $1.8 million for a far east side policing center, to be located at 2500 Park Crescent Drive, south of Interstate-70 between Scarborough Boulevard and Chantry Drive.

Ginther said this is "one of the fastest-growing parts of the city" and warrants additional police protection.

In addition, the building will include space for public meetings for block watch groups and other community organizations.

The money is part of the mayor’s capital improvements budget.

Council also okayed spending $195,000 for state-owned property at West Broad Street and Wheatland Avenue for the relocation of the police heliport.

The move is expected to be completed by April, 2009, Finance Director Joel Taylor reported.

The project is budgeted at $8 million, Taylor said. This included $500,000 for land acquisition.

With the actual purchase coming in well under estimates, the city will have some breathing room if construction bids come in over budget, Taylor explained.

Gary Baker, of the Greater Hilltop Area Commission, said his organization is pleased to have the heliport located in their neighborhood.

Baker also expressed his appreciation after council approved two contracts, totalling $15,000 for a neighborhood revitalization plan and a market analysis to study how to improve the commercial outlook for the Hilltop.

He called the contracts "vitally important" as part of a resurgence in the neighborhood.

"There is a new day on the Hilltop," Baker declared.

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