Northeast business owners, City find solution after snowplow breaks window

Michael Bushnell

After Public Works snowplow drivers sped by Bob Biscari’s bicycle shop in the 5000 block of Independence Avenue during the last storm and slung snow against the building so hard it broke a window frame, enough, as they say, was enough.

Biscari, along with neighboring business owner Joe Vento, called the Northeast Kansas City Chamber of Commerce and met with Public Works officials to discuss the nuts and bolts of proper snow plowing. 
There is, in fact, an art to pushing snow.

“I push snow in the off-season for clients all over the city. When I’m pushing, I’m not going fifty miles per hour and throwing snow fifteen to twenty feet up the face of a building like your plow drivers are,” Biscari said while pointing to pictures of his building showing damaged window frames. “I’ve called numerous times and all I get is passed off to a different person.”
Joe Vento has been barbering on Independence Avenue for over 60 years and said it’s gotten worse over the last few years. 

“We had a lady one time that actually got knocked down from snow being thrown off a plow,” Vento said.

Sherry McIntyre, director of Public Works, noted that any Public Works employee who pushes snow goes through a three-day training class during the fall season. 

“We do dry runs, there’s class room training and equipment training, we try to cover all the bases in our training,” McIntyre said.

Independence Avenue Community Improvement District CEO Bobbi Baker-Hughes noted that the mounds of snow were not only a pedestrian hazard but also very difficult to remove given its consistency. 

“Our community has become far more walkable over the last five to seven years and the mounds left by speeding plows is almost impossible to clean up.”

Martin Marcille, a supervisor in the Public Works department who regularly pushes snow, noted that recommended speed for pushing snow is 15mph. 

“If you’re pushing slushy snow, you shouldn’t even be going that fast,” he said. “We’ve got AVL (Automatic Vehicle Location) in all our vehicles so we can go back and see who was where and how fast they were going too. If I have to change out drivers in order to get it right, I’ll do that.”

Ralph Davis, manager of Engineering Services for the city, noted that finding dedicated employees is a challenge, stating that the Public Works department alone is down 35 workers. 

“That shortage directly impacts how and when we deliver services citywide,” Davis said. “We’re constantly looking for good people to come in and be a part of our team.”

In the end, a commitment was made to monitor the situation moving forward and exchange information in order to ensure plowing is done without damaging buildings or potentially injuring pedestrians who may be on the sidewalk. 

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