Greg Rud, public works director (center), stands with John Bausman (left) and Randy Ness, both city snowplow operators. Photo by David Richards
By David Richards
They work on their birthdays sometimes.
They can also work on Christmas, throughout the night or the day or both.
Crews at the Byron public works department are the key to keeping city streets plowed throughout the winter.
They're the ones who make the drive to work easier after six inches of snow. They're the ones who leave their families so residents can get where they need to without as much ice to contend with.
While last year's winter was mild, two years ago was nearly non-stop in December, and the snowplow crews are ready at all times.
"All the guys do a great job plowing," said Greg Rud, public works director, of his crew.
It all starts with communication.
Rud receives daily e-mails on his cell phone from the county's Emergency Operations Center.
If a storm is being tracked, Rud will receive several updates during the day so his staff can begin their routes when needed.
For a major storm that hits at night, Rud said they will meet at the city's maintenance shop around midnight, begin plowing and hopefully be done sometime midmorning, depending on the snowfall.
"It's nice plowing when there's no one else on the streets," Rud said.
Six employees plow Byron's streets, with each one taking a route.
Plowing on county roads is done by Olmsted County staff, while plowing work in the townships is contracted out.
For the city, its fleet starts with two, large Sterling trucks, with each used for both plowing and for dropping sand in icy areas. One is a 2000, while the other is a 2001. The city owns all of its vehicles, and both trucks can haul up to five yards of sand each, although for weight purposes, each truck hauls less than that.
The city also has a Ford F450 1-ton pickup that is used for the park and ride area across from McDonalds and other smaller locations.
"With the pickup, you don't have to worry about hitting the cars like you do with the big trucks," Rud said.
In addition, the city also owns two other trucks that have plows, but no sanders and a John Deere 544 loader that plows long, straight surfaces such as the Frontage Road and Fourth and 10th avenues.
Olmsted County has a shop in town that supplies the sand, so city crews fill up when they need it.
With the job comes some danger and challenge.
One is driving the equipment itself.
While each staff member is certified, the bigger trucks have multilevers, including ones to drop the sand, and ones to move the plow up and down and side to side. Paying attention to all of that and the two side mirrors in the midst of a snowstorm can pose a challenge.
"It's stressful," said John Bausman, who plows for the city.
Another challenge is the other drivers on the road.
"They try to go around us too early," Rud said. "We need our space."
Rud also urged residents not to allow their children to play in the snow drifts caused by the plows.
"Kids will build snow forts at the end of their driveways," Bausman said. "And we don't know if there's a kid in there or not."
While there are challenges and dangers, city crews are prepared for anything, even when the storms fall on the weekends after staff have all worked full weeks.