December storms dumped inches of ice and snow followed by freezing temps, and Northwest Arkansas crews couldn't clear the ice.
"We got hit pretty hard," says Mayor Doug Sprouse. "Everybody around here did."
"People don't want to miss work," says Public Works Director Sam Goade. "They need to be able to travel around on the streets when we have significant snow and ice storms."
The Arkansas Highway and Transportation Department met with Missouri for advice on road treatment, and Goade tagged along.
"We studied a protocol for pretreating our streets and discovered that we had about half the equipment that we should have to accomplish that goal," he says. "I was able to take that study it, and make a recommendation to the mayor and council for some improvements."
On Tuesday, the city council approved funding for a salt storage building, as well as $157,000 for extra equipment.
"We're adding about 4 blades, some belly plows and some front plows, to our existing equipment," Sprouse says. "We're also adding a couple of spreaders, much larger capacity spreaders, which means fewer trips back to refill."
In addition to the new equipment, crews now have a solid plan of action.
"We have established a pre-treatment route that constitutes 161 lane miles of roadway that's our major collector streets and arteries," Goade says. "Right now with our equipment it takes 5 hours to do that, and that's way too long. We need to have our pretreatment done about an hour to an hour and a half ahead of the storm, and with this new equipment we'll be able to deploy and get that done within that time frame."
The equipment will be ready next Winter, but Sprouse says the new protocols will help if the city gets hit before then.
"We're really making an effort to change our program where we're much more effective with our pre-treating," he says. "The time window is so important when you're pre-treating, it needs to be put down at just the right time."
The city plans to limit road improvements this summer to free up cash for the equipment.