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In Buzz Commentary

The Department of Public Works has a plan for snow removal.

Before the fall, snow removal debate intensifies

If city officials expect bus stops and pedestrian ramps to be cleared within 24 hours of a snowfall, the Department of Public Works recommends hiring more private contractors to handle the job.

After heavy snow last winter, aldermen asked why crosswalks and bus stops were obstructed for weeks. After reminding aldermen several times in its report that city rules require adjacent property owners to shovel pedestrian ramps, the DPW came up with several recommendations.

The city spends about $105,000 for clearing just half the ramps and bus stops after each storm. Current policy is that the plows go out all over the city only if the storm dumps four to six inches of fresh snow. The DPW's goal is to have snow clearing done with two to three days of the event.

The report offers six options to aldermen:

  • Shoveling by hiring private sector workers within 24 hours at a total cost of about $450,000 a storm.
  • Hire private plow operators to do it with some help from the city within 24 hours at about $450,000 a storm.
  • Hire plowers to help the city clear the snow within 24 hours and also require adjacent property owners to shovel their pedestrian ramps, which is the rule now. That would cost $450,000 per operation.
  • Extend bus stop clearing efforts to all bus stop locations by a private contractor within 24 hours at a total continuing cost of about $30,000 a storm.
  • Enforce and expand current city rules that adjacent property owners are responsible for shoveling pedestrian ramps to cover more ramps. The cost for current city clearing operations at corners can be eliminated.
  • Just cracking down on enforcing current sidewalk snow clearing ordinances would cost about $60,000, but there would be no guarantee that shoveling would be done within 24 hours.

DPW suggested raising the snow and ice fee to cover the additional cost. The fee rose from $2.4 million in 2007 to $4.3 million in the 2008 budget and jumped by $1.6 million earlier this month.

DPW's report came out just before Mayor Tom Barrett was to announce his budget.

Chalkboard Challenges: The daily newspaper might have gotten too excited when the School Board discussed what to do about its dwindling budget.

After all, the paper's editorial board has expressed strong support for the voucher program, which provides tax dollars for students from low-income families to attend private and religious schools, some of which have tenuous credentials.

The paper's reports last week that members of the board approved dissolving the Milwaukee Public Schools district were not correct at all, says School Board President Peter Blewett.

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