City of Steamboat Springs equipment operator Steve Meade uses a bulldozer to push snow up the mountain that's formed behind the public works shop off of Critter Court near downtown Steamboat. The city uses the area to store snow removed from city streets during the winter.

Photo by John F. Russell

City of Steamboat Springs equipment operator Steve Meade uses a bulldozer to push snow up the mountain that's formed behind the public works shop off of Critter Court near downtown Steamboat. The city uses the area to store snow removed from city streets during the winter.

City snowplow operators log 2,000 hours in two weeks

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— The more than 20 feet of snow that has accumulated on the slopes of Mount Werner this winter has been a blessing to skiers and riders. But on the streets of Steamboat Springs, it has meant a flurry of work for those charged with maintaining roads.

"They are working their tails off," City Manager Alan Lanning said Monday of the city's snowplow drivers. "They're very much appreciated by everyone."

In the two-week pay period that ended Jan. 19, a short-staffed crew of a dozen snowplow drivers worked 2,075 hours, 925 of which were overtime.

"It's higher than normal, but I don't know if we had one day without measurable snow that (two weeks)," said Bob Litzau, the city's interim finance director. "I think they did a pretty good job of getting the streets clear."

Between Nov. 21 and Jan. 22, Steamboat Ski Area reported measurable snowfall 50 of 65 days. The drier conditions of the past week came to an end Monday, and more snow is expected through the week, according to forecasts from the National Weather Service in Grand Junction.

But snowplow drivers don't stop working just because the snow stops falling.

"When it stops snowing, you're removing," Lanning said. "It's kind of a never-ending, November-to-April thing."

The starting regular wage for the city's seasonal equipment operators is $18.10 an hour, and the city pays time and a half for overtime. If every driver made the starting salary, the city would have spent about $46,000 paying snowplow drivers from Jan. 6 to 19 alone. The actual amount is higher; Litzau said drivers make different wages based on how long they've been with the city and whether they have supervisory roles.

Litzau could not provide an exact amount for how much the city paid its snowplow drivers in that two-week period, but he said the city is on pace to overshoot its 2008 overtime budget for snowplow drivers. Litzau said the city already has spent $20,000 out of $28,000 budgeted. The city's overall 2008 budget for snow removal personnel is $356,752.

The city entered the season short four snowplow drivers and continues to advertise for an open position. Anyone interested in the position can call 879-2060.

- To reach Brandon Gee, call 871-4210

or e-mail bgee@steamboatpilot.com

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