WATERLOO — Black Hawk County officials are reconsidering a long-standing policy against salting and sanding icy roads after dark.
“We’re getting to the point where the public does expect us to be more effective,” County Engineer Cathy Nicholas told the Board of Supervisors Tuesday. “The sheriff definitely believes that.”
The county’s secondary roads crews handle snow control from 5 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily on the paved and gravel county roads. The department is not staffed to run multiple shifts and responds only to emergencies at night.
A 15-year-old ordinance governing snow and ice control notes “truck mounted snowplows and spreaders will not normally be in operation between the hours of 5 p.m. and 5 a.m.”
The ordinance also states county crews will not be “sanding, salting, or placing of other abrasives upon paved roadways due to freezing rain that occurs outside the county’s usual working hours.”
Sheriff Tony Thompson has asked to revisit the ordinance after an ice storm last Thursday led his deputies to respond to 70 vehicles leaving the roadway.
The accidents included several semi-tractor trailer trucks sliding off North Elk Run Road on their way to and from Tyson Fresh Meats and other businesses in Waterloo’s Northeast Industrial Area.
Nicholas said she would like to change the ordinance and hire a part-time person on an on-call basis to run a salt truck on paved county roads after hours when necessary.
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“We are not meeting the expectations of drivers and freight traffic in particular,” Nicholas said. “There are several freight routes where we really need to step up.”
But her request for additional staffing got a cold shoulder from supervisors Tom Little and Craig White.
“I disagree with that,” Little said. “I don’t think it takes more people; it’s just using your people a little bit differently than you’re doing now.
“I just don’t see hiring one part-time person is going to alleviate this problem,” he added. “I don’t know that it’s even going to help it.”
White said the traveling public bears some responsibility in helping avoid accidents.
“There’s a section of common sense that enters into it too,” he said. “Common sense (means) you don’t go out and drive on an icy road.”
White and Supervisor Dan Trelka are expecting to meet with Nicholas and staff from the sheriff’s office to discuss solutions to the icy roads at night, especially on truck routes.
Nicholas said she had hoped for additional funding in next year’s budget to help address the problem.