MOUNT VERNON — The winter of 2009-10 has been a challenge to those who are charged with keeping the roads clear. Perhaps the most unsung heroes of snow removal are the employees of the different townships, who are up anywhere from 3 to 5 a.m. on a cold, snowy morning.
The smallest township in the county — College Township — has only nine miles of township road to clear. But it’s just as necessary to keep the roads clear and traffic moving on those nine miles as anywhere else in the county.
“What we use is our station truck,” said College Township Trustee Doug McLarnan. “The truck is paid for through the fire department and the township. Bill Smith, who is the fire chief, is also the township maintenance person. And we keep after it and haven’t had any real problems this winter. This last snow, with the blowing, we had to hire someone to help out with some of the drifting. But we are independent.
“We work closely with the village of Gambier,” he continued. “Our salt is stored down in their bin. So we have a mutual working relationship with the village and we go together. We have a dump-bed hopper on the back of our truck which is adequate for the amount of roads we have.”
McLarnan said the township runs a pretty efficient operation for clearing the roads of snow.
“We don’t have to have a great big truck and it fits our roads better,” he said. “We had plenty of salt left over from last year, so that wasn’t a problem. Now if this weather went on for another month, that might be a different situation. Our guys have done a really good job. We’ve had no complaints and they’ve done a real good job.”
Smith watches weather reports closely when snow is predicted and is ready to get up early if necessary to start clearing the roads.
“I usually try to get up at 5 if the weather gets real bad,” he said. “Kenyon security will call. They call the village, myself and Kenyon if the weather is really crappy. Normally, that’s adequate time to get the job done. It will get it clear for people going to work.
“I’m used to getting up that early because I’m an old farm boy,” he added. “So it doesn’t really bother me. When it got bad was times when I was still plowing at midnight the night before. So we kind of came to a decision that come 9 o’clock in the evening we were going to call it quits. Normally, most people aren’t out running around later, especially with a lot of snow. So we will call it quits at 9 and start again at 5 in the morning.”
The truck used by Smith for the plowing is a Ford F-350 with an 8 1/2-foot plow. The truck has a dump bed insert with a tailgate spreader for applying salt and/or grit to the roads.
“For what we’ve had — and we haven’t had anything like this for quite a while — I think the townships and the county and state have done a real good job from what I’ve seen,” Smith said. “I don’t ever remember the snow being on the ground this long. I think everybody’s done a great job this year, all things considered.”
Monroe Township, with almost four times the area as College Township, handles snow removal a little differently.
“We have two trucks and two roadmen, said Monroe Township Trustee Bill Pursel. “And we divide it up. One will take the north half of the township and the other will take the southern side.”
Because there is more township road mileage than College, the roadmen get started earlier.
“They get out about 3 or 3:30 in the morning,” Pursel said. “I know. I’ve ridden with them a couple times.”
He said the nature of the roads in Monroe Township calls for a different kind of strategy for salting and sanding.
“Because some of our roads are gravel and some are blacktop, it requires different ingredients, either sand or salt, to treat them,” Pursel explained. “So we don’t put salt on the gravel roads. So what happens if they are meaning to put down sand or salt, they may be on the roads a couple of different times. So if they finish all the sanding they need to do on the gravel roads, they may have to go back and dump their load and reload with the other material. I’ve made a special point, along with [the other trustees] Brennan [Durbin] and Neil [Bower] to go out to check to see where we are. They are pretty efficient.
“Our guys are Tom Tyson and Mitch Simpson. They do a wonderful job for us and work real hard.”