by Sarah Squires
As most were asleep snug in their beds, Winona road crews were out plowing the holiday away.
And think of this as a little Christmas break, for everybody: no tickets, no tows.
After 21 years of alternate side winters, snow brings the same questions, the same gripes. Even as residents got a little holiday pass for parking on the wrong side this time, each winter, the city is peppered with questions about alternate side parking and snow removal. And complaints.
The issue was the topic at a City Council session earlier this month. Even though it didn't seem as though any council member was ready to make any changes, council member Al Thurley said he wanted some ideas.
Council member James Kahl said that he'd had a number of complaint calls, both about alternate side parking, and also about those parked on the proper side of the roadway getting plowed in.
He wondered if there wasn't some way to plow one side at one time, then go back to the other after cars had moved.
But city staff said that they have to clear as much snow as they can at first. The longer the snow is down, the more cars drive over it and compact it, making it difficult to get it off the roadways. Snow removers are limited by the night hours people are required to move their cars (1 a.m. to 6:30 a.m.) and also by the number of staff available for the job. The street department has two fewer employees to do the work since the ordinance was written in 1986.
Some communities have snow removal and parking regulations that are different from Winona's. Some don't allow on-street parking on winter nights at all. Some only require cars to be moved during a snow emergency.
Case in point: Mankato
Here's a look at Mankato, population 34,970:
"Mankato's goal is to minimize or, ideally, eliminate towing," reads the city's policy on snow removal. Additionally, it states that other public works agencies and new products are routinely surveyed to help enhance snow removal.
Mankato doesn't use alternate side parking. Instead, vehicles must be moved at least every 24 hours unless marked otherwise. In the event of a snowstorm, a snow emergency is called. During a snow emergency and plowing operations, vehicles must be moved off roadways except for designated areas marked "seasonal," where they must be moved from side-to-side as the roadways are cleared.
The city is divided into eight plowing districts. During a snow emergency, equipment is dispatched to each area. The city's central business district is plowed after other areas are finished. When hauling snow is inevitable, the goal is to plow snow into the center of the street and then remove the snow at night.
Not a perfect fit
Some have hoped that this center plowing method could cure the "getting plowed in" problem in Winona. But with cars parked on one side of the street, crews don't have as much road width to work with.
And doing away with alternate side parking, tempting as it might sound, would likely create more problems than it would solve. Although it would mean a wider street to clear, and plows could plow from curb to curb, Police Chief Frank Pomeroy has said for years that before alternate side parking, many more people were towed during a snowstorm. Without the every night reminder to move the car, when it counts, people forget.
With every cure for snow removal, comes more pain. If it's not one thing, it's the other. Many cities' policies, while convenient on one hand, end up quite complicated and difficult to navigate, which can end up causing more expensive tows.
For now, it seems as though alternate side parking and snow removal won't be changing soon in Winona. You're best bet? Park on odd sides on odd-numbered days (after 1 a.m.), even sides on even-numbered days. And go ahead and give your city plow guys a friendly wave for paving your way.