A car is reflected in a large pool of water created by melting snow Tuesday on Yampa Avenue. The puddle is a leftover reminder of large snow and ice piles that accumulated on downtown curbs, narrowing streets and limiting access. Other large accumulations remain.

Photo by Hans Hallgren

A car is reflected in a large pool of water created by melting snow Tuesday on Yampa Avenue. The puddle is a leftover reminder of large snow and ice piles that accumulated on downtown curbs, narrowing streets and limiting access. Other large accumulations remain.

City aware of snow pack concerns

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— It's not the snow buildup on sidewalks worrying downtown business owners, said Tom Cramer, co-owner of Cramer Flooring at 575 Yampa Ave.

It's the curbs.

Cramer and other business owners are seeking help with large windrows comprised of snow and ice pack.

They have effectively made the curbs extend a couple more feet into the roadway, Cramer said, causing a recent issue with moving vehicles sideswiping parked vehicles because Yampa Avenue's traffic lanes have become too narrow.

"We lost a mirror off of our truck parked out there and so did one of our guys," Cramer said.

Buildup that constantly grows, then melts and then freezes also makes for a slippery walkway when people try to get to the sidewalks, he added.

"If you were to come and look in front of our stores, we've cleaned in front of five stores here," Cramer said. "The biggest thing for us, we had a lady in a wheelchair and (her car) drove around the block five times before she found a spot level enough to park and get out."

Recently, there has been confusion about who should assume responsibility for snow cleanup, whether it's businesses, the city or the state, since Yampa Avenue is part of the state highway system, specifically as a part of Colorado Highway 13.

A state statute provided by the Colorado Department of Transportation dictates the state will clean the roadway, but curb and gutters belong to the local governing body, defined as either the city or city and county.

The city of Craig hears those concerns, City Manager Jim Ferree said. In fact, the city is concerned with snow accumulation all over, but the standing policy is for property owners to take care of the walkways in front of their businesses.

It would take a lot of planning and money for the city to start addressing snow buildup, Ferree said.

"We would have to really think about that," he said. "That would cost a lot of money and it would compete with the private sector."

The city's plow fleet isn't large enough to handle expanding operations to include removal, Ferree said. The Road and Bridge and Refuse Department uses the same trucks for laying sand as it would to haul snow, he said.

The city's priority is to plow snow and then lay sand so roadways are safe to travel, Ferree said.

"It would take hours to empty the dump trucks of sand to get them ready for hauling snow," Ferree said. "We get a lot more calls for sand than we do for snow."

Each time it snows, the city has to lay more sand, he said.

"If we get an extended warming period, we might be able to do something like that," Ferree said.

The city now is also addressing another priority: Clearing and steaming storm drains to prepare for runoff flooding concerns, he added.

It partnered with the Colorado Department of Transportation to push windrows off Victory Way on Monday.

CDOT crews pushed as much snow and ice up to the curb as they could without dumping it onto sidewalks, said Nancy Shanks, CDOT Western Slope public relations director.

Something like that could happen downtown, but there still would not be an available crew to haul the windrows away.

There are residents who run businesses to clean windrow buildup, Ferree said. If the city decided to clean downtown's snow, by rights it would be beholden to clean the rest of the city's snow, which could put a crunch on those businesses, he said.

Cramer understands, he said.

"That makes sense to me and I don't have an answer for that," he said. "But we pay a lot of taxes and I want to know where that money is going. From a safety standpoint, this is the busiest street in town, except for Victory, and I would think that would take some kind of precedence."

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