Residents not pleased with private contractor in charge of snow removal

Posted at 10:04 PM, Dec 04, 2013
and last updated 2013-12-05 00:04:08-05

COTTONWOOD HEIGHTS, Utah -- It’s two days after Monday's snowstorm, and many neighborhoods in Cottonwood Heights are still packed with snow and ice.

Some residents blame the new privatized snow removal service.

When Dee Conger awakened Wednesday morning, he was stunned. It looked like a plow never made its way down his street near 7000 South and 2300 East.

Snow removal in the area used to be Salt Lake County's job.

"It seems like it usually gets cleared away every year, this is the first time I've seen hard snow, hard ice on the road," Conger said.

Cottonwood Heights is the first city in Utah to hire a private contractor for snow removal. Colorado-based company Terracare debuted Monday. The reviews are in, and most citizens gave the company's first performance two thumbs down.

"It's the worst in 30 years," said Mike Schmauch. "Letting Terracare call its own shots is like letting the inmates run the asylum."

It was so bad, part of Fort Union Boulevard shut down after 8 slide-offs. Terracare used only half its fleet when the storm first hit, and crews quickly got behind.

"They were on stage for the first time, and they forgot their lines," said Cottonwood Heights Mayor Kelvyn Cullimore Jr.

Sixty percent of the neighborhoods in the city still have snowpack, according to the mayor. Meanwhile, Terracare is also plowing in Centennial, Colorado. A contractor with that city spoke positively about the services.

"I do consider them experts in their field in public works service delivery,” Craig Faessler said. “They're doing an outstanding job, in my opinion, for the city of Centennial.”

However, in Centennial, Terracare isn't required to plow residential areas, only main roads. In Cottonwood Heights crews have to cover 125 miles, and with the cold temperatures turning snow to ice all crews can do is saturate neighborhoods with salt in hopes of clearing the ice in a couple days.

"They failed on the contract, rescind it and start over. Get another company," Schmauch said of the situation.

But the mayor said it's not that easy,

"This isn't a one more chance or you’re gone kind of thing, because there's nowhere to go," Cullimore said.

Once Cottonwood Heights hired Terracare, Salt Lake County diverted its plows elsewhere. Mayor Cullimore said if snow removal becomes a persistent problem the city will look for alternative services, but for now they hope to work with the contractor. City leaders will be watching closely to see how Terracare handles Saturday's expected storm.