'We'll be there': County asks residents for patience as snow season begins

<p><p>Every winter Spokane County goes to battle to keep clear 5,100 lane miles of road.</p></p><p><p>During a news conference Monday at the public works building on Farwell Road, the county outlined its defensive snow clearing strategy and encouraged residents to stay safe this winter.</p></p><p><p>The county emphasized it is armed for battle, even though this is a La Niña winter and above-average snowfall is expected.</p></p><p><p>“We still don’t know quite what to expect with a La Niña winter,” Spokane County Public Works and Information Outreach Manager Martha Lou Wheatley-Billeter said. “But we’re prepared.”</p></p><p><p>Spokane County Commissioner Josh Kerns talked about the county’s snow-clearing arsenal: 36 snow plows with sanders, 34 graders and four liquid de-icing trucks, run by 66 employees in four road districts.</p></p><p><p>After a storm, the county works to clear the busiest routes first. Once those are plowed, the focus shifts to secondary arterials. After that, the plows head to residential roads. Residents can monitor snow plow progress live on the county website during and after storms.</p></p><p><p>“The goal is to clear our entire network in four days,” Kerns said.</p></p><p><p>Kerns specifically made a point of noting 16 of the county’s graders now have “boots” or “gates.”</p></p><p><p>The gate is attached to the end of the grader’s blade. It swings up and down, allowing the grader to avoid putting a wall of snow at the end of someone’s driveway.</p></p><p><p>County residents should keep safety in mind during winter, Kerns said. He encouraged people to inflate their tires, make sure they always have at least a half-tank of gas and drive at a safe speed when the conditions are poor, even if that means traveling below the speed limit.</p></p><p><p>Spokane County Engineer Chad Coles said the county has a $3.5 million annual snow removal budget. That should be sufficient for this winter, he said.</p></p><p><p>Coles noted the county is short-staffed, like many government agencies, and that might lead to it taking longer to finish plowing roads. He said the county is hoping to hire 14 people and encouraged anyone with a commercial driver’s license to apply.</p></p><p><p>Spokane County Public Works Maintenance and Operations Manager Andy Schenk asked residents to be patient when it snows. He added that it’s helpful when people stay home, keeping the roads clear for plow drivers.</p></p><p><p>“We’ll be there,” Schenk said. “Give them patience and give them time.”</p></p>