The La Grande City Council questioned La Grande Public Works Director Kyle Carpenter on the snow removal process at Wednesday night’s city council meeting.

The meeting began with saying goodbye to Councilor Troy Pointer, who did not run for re-election in November, and swearing in Councilor Jim Whitbeck, who replaced Pointer, as well as incumbents Mayor Steve Clements, Justin Rock and Gary Lillard — then the conversation turned to complaints of inadequate snow removal in La Grande.

Mayor Clements and Councilor MaryAnn Miesner said they’ve had residents complain their driveways were blocked, or had to help people who were stuck in the snow. Carpenter said there are 87 miles of roadway in La Grande for the public works department to keep up with, and they do the best they can, as fast as they can.

Referring to the city’s snow response plan, which is available on the city’s website, Carpenter said public works begins snowplowing efforts when there is six inches of snow on the ground and more is forecasted. The plan states when “snowfall is between four and six inches, it will be necessary to remove slush during periods of rapid melting.”

The snow removal plan prioritizes the roadways in the city, Carpenter said. The hospital’s emergency routes are the first priority listed in the plan, followed by the “arterial, Central Business District and major roads and intersections.” Those major roads and intersections include Spruce Street, Jefferson Avenue, Adams Avenue, Second Street and Fourth Street. The first and second priorities for the department covers 25 miles, he said.

The third and last priority are residential streets and alleys. Carpenter said residential roadways can be hard to get to, and in the event of a major snowfall, it is unlikely the public works department would have the time or resources to plow them.

Carpenter told the city council Wednesday night the plan does not say the department will get to the entire city. He said if the public works department were to plow every street in La Grande, which does not include picking up the snow, it would cost $25,000 and take approximately 20 to 24 hours to do. If the employees were to pick up the snow in the downtown area to free up parking spaces that would be an additional $6,000.

See complete story in Friday's Observer