Winsted-Lester Prairie Journal, Oct. 8, 2001

Ready for snow? Winsted maintenance department is

By Patrice Waldron

The City of Winsted has many areas which make it attractive, including Winsted Lake, the numerous parks, and the streets which are clean and well-maintained.

"The city maintenance staff has good equipment, and they know how to use it. The streets of Winsted are very clean, especially compared to other cities this size," said Winsted Mayor Don Guggemos.

One way for the city maintenance personnel to prepare for the upcoming winter weather, and another season of snow removal is by attending the annual state snowplow roadeo.

The roadeo is part of the two-day 2001 Fall Maintenance Expo, which takes place at the St. Cloud Public Works Facility.

Tim Kosek of the Winsted Public Works Department was able to attend one day of the expo recently. Other staff members have attended the maintenance expo in previous years.

Maintenance staff from the state, city, county, township, and tribal governments come together to learn from each other by attending the workshops, compete in the roadeo, view the exhibits, and talk to other participants.

The snowplow roadeo is a course set up to test the skills of plow operators.

While driving the plow through a series of cones, the plow operator has to raise and lower the wing on the side of the plow over the cones. The course simulates the action of plowing next to a curb, having to raise and lower the wing over driveways.

"There were about 1,500 people there, and there was a lot of good information presented," Kosek said.

There are more workshops available than there is time to attend. The ones I went to brought up a lot of good reminders of how to do certain things, or how to deal with the public, Kosek explained.

Workshop topics included proper mix of salt and sand, including what combinations work best for different road conditions, defensive driving, safety and maintenance, and weather forecasting technology.

Another part of the expo that received quite a bit of attention was the vendor area.

More than an acre of area was covered with snowplowing equipment, loaders, graders, Bobcats, and some high-tech equipment.

In the defensive driving and accident resolution workshop, techniques were presented on how to handle driving situations where motorists are not yielding to the plow operators.

Along with trying to keep everyone safe, tips were given about how to deal with the public, and conflict resolution.

Plow operators must occasionally deal with angry homeowners or drivers.

Winsted has a winter parking ordinance to prevent people from leaving their cars on the street overnight, and in the way of the snowplow.

"I've had many more compliments than complaints, but attending the class is a good reminder of how to deal with people in different situations," Kosek said.

The maintenance personnel, because of the parking ordinance, are authorized to issue parking violations to those who leave their cars on the street, Kosek explained.

"It doesn't happen very often, but we usually let the police department handle the violators rather than stopping while we're plowing," Kosek said.

There's more to plowing snow than is readily apparent. Kosek spoke of how different road conditions require different techniques to make the road driveable. He explained pre-wetting, where the salt/sand is moistened with a brine before being spread on the road.

The "wet mix" sticks to the road surface more than the dry mix (which may blow off the road) and thus works better at de-icing the road.

"The expo brings people together to share their knowledge and experience and to gain an edge on the demands we know winter will bring," said Mark Wikelius, Mn/DOT's state maintenance engineer.

Wikelius notes that while snowplow operators and other maintenance employees hone their skills for winter, motorists also need to start becoming aware of winter's demands on their driving practices. Wikelius advises:

· Reduce your speed when approaching a snowplow.

· Never drive into a snow cloud.

· Give snowplow operators room to work safely.

The maintenance department staff can't spare the personnel to all attend the expo every year, but all agreed that the event is definitely worth attending, and would like to go again.

Event sponsors include: the Minnesota Street Superintendents Association, the Minnesota Chapter of the American Public Works Association, the Center for Transportation Studies at the University of Minnesota, and the Minnesota Department of Transportation (Mn/DOT).

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