Benton County now has a policy to guide snow and ice control on its roads — just in time for winter.
The seven-page policy details which roadways should be given priority and lays out procedures for handling the work.
The county didn’t have a written policy, relying instead on past practices and institutional memory.
“We’ve had a lot of individuals that have been with the county for quite some time. That institutional knowledge has transferred with those individuals,” said Dan Ford, the new public works director.
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But the new policy provides a foundation “we can actually build upon,” he said, adding in a memo to county commissioners that “it is useful to have such a policy to establish a standardized method of operations and to set a level of expectation for the traveling public.”
Ford became head of public works earlier this year.
County commissioners reviewed the new policy Tuesday during their regular weekly meeting in Prosser.
Public works staff spent months researching and crafting it, reviewing similar policies from other jurisdictions and the state Department of Transportation in the process.
Under the policy, arterial and collector roads are given top priority, along with other roads “critical for the movement of people and goods.” School bus and public transportation routes that don’t fall into that first tier are deemed “priority level 2,” followed by secondary roads with homes or businesses, and then all other roads.
The policy defines the winter driving season as falling between Nov. 15 and March 15, “unless weather conditions require otherwise.” All road and vehicle maintenance workers must be ready for the beginning of the season, including ensuring equipment is inspected and serviced, and that enough control materials are on hand.
The policy states personnel must report for emergency call-outs unless they’re unable to perform their duties or have made prior arrangements with their supervisor. Early this year, several road workers based at the county’s Prosser shop didn’t respond to a weekend snow removal call-out, which led to some disciplinary action. Ford said the new policy isn’t related to that matter.
Public works plans to post snow plow and de-icing route maps on its website.
Commissioners heard updates from the planning and building departments and approved a $15 impound fee and $10-per-day boarding fee for impounded dogs being claimed by their owners. The fees were being waived on first offense.