Chilkat Valley News - Serving Haines and Klukwan, Alaska since 1966

 
 

No bidders for plowing jobs; Conditions on snow-moving a hitch for some

 

October 20, 2011



Residents of two upper valley subdivisions are facing the prospect of plowing their roads themselves this winter.

Some contractors say conditions residents place on plowing makes the job not worth bidding. None submitted proposals to clear roads at Eagle Vista Subdivision or Riverview Drive.

Southeast Roadbuilders provided plowing last year at the request of the borough. Ralph Swinton said leaving a grader parked on Mosquito Lake Road for three or four plowings wasn’t lucrative for the firm. "We did it as a favor as much as anything. It’s not something we’re really making money off of. It’s more of a convenience thing."

Chip Strong had the contract for plowing Eagle Vista and Riverview a few years back, but stopped bidding on it. One of the reasons the job’s not attractive is a contract stipulation that limits plowing to snowfalls greater than eight inches, and at the request of the road maintenance service area boards, he said.

"They’d say, ‘Don’t plow, Don’t plow.’ Then, when there is that much, you’ve got to spend that much time or more just to clean up the mess. If you sign a contract to plow snow you need to be able to plow when you think it needs it," Strong said.

Subdivision residents will drive on top of lesser amounts of snow, leaving deep ruts between a growing layer of ice, he said. A chained-up plow truck trying to work there went out of the ruts and became so stuck a grader was needed to pull it out, he said.

"If you don’t keep it plowed down to the dirt road, it’s just a waste of time or money. If you don’t do that, it’s not going to work," Strong said. Four inches would be a better minimum for plowing, he said.

Plowing the first snowfalls allows plow drivers to build a berm that serves as both a bumper and a guide for later plowing, he said. "You can feel that curb-like berm when you plow."

In addition, substandard borough roads built without a crown make it difficult for plow drivers to see where the edge of the road becomes the ditch, he said. "You know where the ditch starts when you fall off the road. A sloped road built properly, with culverts and everything else would be good."

What subdivision residents will do this year is the "big question," said longtime resident David Pahl, a member of the Riverview Road service area board. "It’s tough to pay $600 to plow less than a mile of road if it’s only a few inches," Pahl said. "It’s easy for the plow driver not to think of the taxpayer."

Before government consolidation in 2002, neither the state nor the borough wanted responsibility for the road and the 15 or so landowners there would pool their money and hire a neighbor to drop a plow on the road from time to time, he said.

After consolidation, the borough assumed control of the road and now those who plow it are required to be licensed and bonded, Pahl said. "We used to take matters into our own hands… I don’t know what we’re going to do. Maybe someone will rally and put in a bid when they find out no one else has. Either that or we’ll cross our fingers and hope for the best, but that doesn’t usually work."

John Hunt serves on the Dalton Trail road maintenance service area responsible for Eagle Vista. Hunt said he’d be willing to talk to contractors about amending downward the minimum amount for plowing, but said he wonders why eight inches works as a minimum for service areas closer to town, but not for his area.

"There’s still some talking we could do, but it’s coming down to the wire," he said.

He said communication has been a problem in the past and that sometimes plows didn’t come the day they were requested.

Hunt said his subdivision includes three state ferry employees, a borough police officer and schoolchildren. "There are plenty of reasons to plow this road regularly."