Citizens complain about snow berms

Posted: Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Riverside Drive residents Larry Buzzell and Kurt Dzinich Sr. are fed up with the city plows pushing snow berms across their driveways.

After each storm the men, both seniors, clear their driveways before plows block them again.

"It's like a dog pooping in your yard after you've mowed it," Buzzell said.

City officials say they're doing what they can, considering that the miles of road have grown considerably in recent years while their budget has not. Add to that, snowplow equipment that works in other towns to keep berms out of people's driveways can't withstand Juneau's wet snow.

Both Buzzell and Dzinich have complained to the city and say they've gotten no result. Dzinich, in his 70s and a disabled veteran, said he's had to go into the street, with his back to traffic, to clear snow he thinks is the city's responsibility.

"Why should citizens be pushed out into the street?" Dzinich said. "It's a dangerous thing to do."

City Manager Rod Swope said the city does the best it can.

Director of Public Works Joe Buck said the primary reason for berming driveways is money.

On Monday, two trucks and one grader cleared all of Riverside Drive for $500. A former method, which involved moving snow to the center and scooping it into trucks to dump elsewhere, multiplies equipment and man-hours and costs the city about $3,000 for the same stretch of road, according to Buck.

"You have only so many resources," he said.

Buzzell, a 30-year-resident, said the city began pushing the snow across driveways last winter. Dzinich said he wouldn't care if the plows left snow anywhere else but their driveways and blocking mailboxes.

After the last storm, Dzinich said he found several "200 or 300-pound" ice and snow boulders in his driveway.

Mailman Toby Carandang said the berms hinder his work delivering mail on Riverside Drive.

Following a storm, 25 city trucks of varying size clear 120 miles of Juneau streets as a priority. Simply pushing snow aside opens more roads faster, and how the drivers go about it depends on the snow, Buck said.

In general, the city doesn't clear sidewalks or driveways and only a few streets are still plowed to the center and then completely cleared of snow.

In a letter sent to the Juneau Assembly and Dzinich, Street Superintendent Mike Scott said that total miles of road have "grown significantly" in the past decade while manpower to clear them has not.

"Our budget has barely kept up pace with inflation," he said.

The city once tried to stop berming driveways with hydraulic snow gates that, when lowered, stop snow from blocking driveways. Buck said the equipment wasn't stout enough for Juneau's heavy wet snow.

"They would break after six driveways," he said.

Riverside Drive is a high priority street used to access Glacier Highway and get students to several Mendenhall Valley schools. After a storm passes, crews will go back to clear away snow on both sides of the road in preparation for the next storm, Buck said.

If nothing else, Dzinich said he would like the city to clear the sidewalk so that children walking to Mendenhall River Elementary School are not in the street with passing cars.

According to Stone, the sidewalk along Riverside is classified as a "Safe Route to School" and is supposed to be clear.

On Monday, the walkway was buried under snow.

"In the morning there's cars and students everywhere," Buzzell said.

• Contact Reporter Greg Skinner at 523-2258 or

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