For the most part, Sadell Scarbrough loves her job plowing snow from the streets of Bend.
Scarbrough, who has worked in street operations with the city for 19 years, loves the gratification that comes with bringing a snow-packed street back to pavement.
Sometimes, she is met with gratitude — an elderly couple whose driveway she helped dig out comes to mind.
But she also has dealt with less-than-happy residents, who make sure she knows they are unhappy with the berms her snowplow leaves at the edge of their driveway.
“I just lift up (my plow) and go around them,” Scarbrough said. “Then I just smile and wave.”
But this winter, the most anticipated change to city’s snow removal plan is a new piece of equipment called a snow gate that will give plow drivers more control over where they put the snow — and hopefully ease the concerns of those neighbors perturbed by snow berms.
“We’re really excited about it,” Scarbrough said.
This kind of equipment is usually used in rural areas of the county, but for the first time, the city will try prevent the creation of snow berms at locations like driveways, group mail boxes, alleyways and more, said David Abbas, the streets and operations director for the city.
“This isn’t going to solve the berm problem all over, all the time,” Abbas told the City Council last week. “We’ll give this thing a trip and see how it works.”
Scarbrough was one of the many snow plow operators who have been out clearing the streets of Bend since snow started falling Tuesday. This week’s snow storm marked the city’s first chance to use some of its new snow removal strategies — although without the snow gate, which won’t arrive until December.
“I think, so far, so good,” Abbas said of the city’s plowing efforts Wednesday. “We hit it hard yesterday.”
In addition to introducing the snow gate into plowing operations, changes this winter mostly focus on plowing differently and hiring more staff to clear not just roads, but sidewalks and pedestrian roundabout areas.
“We’re trying to make things safer for all users,” Abbas said.
In general, that means asking plowers to plow from curb-to-curb, rather than focusing on just clearing the car lane. Having bike lanes and sidewalks blocked by snow after a plow truck comes through has been a complaint that has come every year, Abbas said.
“Instead of focusing on getting as many miles, maybe do that extra pass on a corridor to get clear curb to curb for all users,” Abbas said.
The city also put more money into the budget this year to hire two more seasonal workers who are dedicated to clearing off sidewalks on bridges and pedestrian access at roundabouts.
“They are kind of the ‘no man’s land’ areas of the city,” Abbas said.
Because the program is new, Abbas said people should not expect all 33 roundabouts to be cleared all the time. But as the city does more transportation planning, he anticipates the program could grow.
“For the transportation system plan, there are conversations about maintenance, and funding goes with that,” Abbas said.
A pilot program — which bans parking on certain streets during a declared snow emergency — will also return this year. The program allows the city to tow cars parked in emergency snow zones to allow the street to fully be plowed from curb to curb.
Though the program started last winter, it was never implemented — a decision that was questioned by the community during a historic snowstorm this March.
But whether the program is necessary this year or not, both Abbas and Scarbrough are asking the public: Keep your cars off the side of the road to avoid getting plowed around, and be patient.
“I’m in the same boat as everyone else is in,” Scarbrough said. “Please be proactive, and please be patient.”