The Snow Screw-Up | The Source Weekly - Bend, Oregon

The Snow Screw-Up

For a town that gets a good amount of snow on a pretty predictable basis, Bend is singularly inept at dealing with the stuff. If

For a town that gets a good amount of snow on a pretty predictable basis, Bend is singularly inept at dealing with the stuff. If you live on a side street, in most winters you stand a better chance of seeing a polar bear going past your house than a plow.

This year, though, the city's plow performance has been even more dismal than usual. While the storm that hit on the first Monday and Tuesday of the new year dumped a respectable amount of snow - about two to six inches, depending on location - it was by no means a Chicago or Buffalo-style blizzard. Still, it left parts of the city virtually paralyzed for 24 hours or more.

Kids got a day off from school, grownups cursed as they slithered and slid on their way to work, and one pizza place actually was unable to make deliveries, inflicting god knows what terrible hardships on its customers. But the snow meant more than inconvenience - it was a public safety hazard, as police put out the word that emergency vehicles would have a hard time reaching the most severely snowed-in areas, notably on the Westside.

And just think: Winter has barely begun.

The snow screw-up is one more instance of what happens when growth races ahead with no regard for how to pay for the public services growth requires. All those new subdivisions mean more streets to plow - but did anybody think about who would pay to plow them?

That's short-sightedness in the long-term sense. In an example of the short-term variety, the City of Bend decided last year to slash its budget for private snow-clearing services almost in half, from $280,000 to $152,000. Since the private contractors cost approximately $50,000 a day, that means the city has enough money for three - count 'em, three - days of plowing.

The city made the decision to cut the snow removal budget because Bend had a very light snow year in 2006-'07 - the private contractors didn't have to get called in once. On that basis, city officials assumed 2007-'08 would be another light snow year, thus providing an excellent demonstration of the axiom that past events are not always reliable predictors of future ones.

We don't know how long the people who made that decision have lived in Bend, but any old-timer could have told them that you can never predict with any degree of accuracy how much snow Bend will get in any given year, so it's common sense to prepare for the worst. And if you get a break - for instance, if you've budgeted $250,000 for snow removal one year and don't spend any of it - it also seems like common sense to put all or part of the money into a rainy day (or, more accurately, snowy day) fund.

In the hope of knocking some common sense into City Hall's snow decision-makers, here's THE BOOT.

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