Despite our frustration with the snow, city and county staff are doing the best job they can
Complaints about how the snow in Prineville and Crook County has caused problems for local residents and businesses have not escaped our attention this past couple of weeks.
We absolutely get it. We have seen residential streets go unplowed for a day or two in town and we have heard about rural subdivisions completely buried with no government services dispatched to dig out streets and allow people to leave their homes and take care of basic needs or go to work.
In addition, we have heard concerns about how the snow is piled up high along the sides of the roads, both in local neighborhoods and near the sidewalks by downtown businesses. Retail stores have seen a dip in business and people are upset to see their driveways blocked by a snow berm after waiting for a snowplow to dig out their street.
We understand the frustration. It can't be easy to deal with all of this snow. But here is what we want to people to realize as they face this challenge. The city and county employees out there removing all of this snow are doing the best they can under the circumstances.
The city has begun spreading that message with Street Supervisor Scott Smith, the primary decision-maker for municipal snow removal efforts, explaining how the effort is going during a Prineville City Council meeting and later in a video that was posted on the city's Facebook page.
He explained how they prioritize city streets, starting with emergency service routes, then roads critical for school attendance, and addressed why people have snow berms in front of their driveways. He knows it's not ideal and has urged residents to call if they are stuck in their driveway, saying they will come dig them out with a backhoe within the hour.
Smith also said they chose to plow downtown roads to the sides instead of the middle of the road as people have come to expect. His reason – putting this much snow in the middle of the road would create even smaller lanes of travel than drivers already face.
All of the city public works employees, including supervisors, have committed day and night hours to snow removal. Smith said his department has already burned through its entire overtime budget for the year – after less than a month of extreme weather. More recently, they have put in night hours hauling that snow up to the Crook County Landfill.
Meanwhile, the county is struggling to keep up with the county roads they maintain, which unfortunately for rural residents do not include subdivision streets in Prineville Lake Acres, Juniper Acres and others. As Judge Seth Crawford pointed out, road department crews were working seven days a week and 14 hours daily to keep up with just county-maintained roads.
Hopes to obtain some help from outside the community fell flat when the county's declaration of a state of emergency was declined and the county asked to spend money they couldn't spare for state resources.
We understand the frustrations, but we have to believe that the people charged with removing all of this snow share in that frustration – and probably more since they have to deal with it all hours of the day and night. They not only deserve a break, they deserve our grace and our gratitude. Asking for help is one thing, but complaining and calling out their efforts feels unwarranted at this point.
There will be time to meet and figure out better ways to deal with heavy snowfall at a later date, and Crawford and a resident in Juniper Acres hope to do just that. That may involve plans established by local neighborhoods or retaining the help of businesses with snow removal resources.
Lastly, we commend those individuals and businesses that have stepped up and helped out their fellow neighbors. Facing weather like we did last week, it was unrealistic to expect the city and county employees to do it alone. But with the help of neighbors and friends, everyone is moving forward, proving once again that the Prineville and Crook County community have a knack for stepping up in times of struggle.