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Contractors: More Time Needed For Snow Gates

December 19, 2012, 6:04 PM by Brady Mallory

Contractors: More Time Needed For Snow Gates

Even though hundreds of voters signed petitions, some private contractors are in no hurry to bring snow gates to Sioux Falls.  

On Tuesday, the Sioux Falls City Council nixed a special election this spring for snow gates.  Though supporters say snow gates work well with city snow plows, private contractors still are not sure how well they do with their equipment.

"Some of us run the same style blade as the city runs; some of the contractors run different style blades," Jim Soukup, President of Soukup Construction, Inc., said.

Soukup spoke at the council meeting on Tuesday.  Soukup Construction tested snow gates last year during our very mild winter.  Right now, Sioux Falls contracts 11 private companies and uses 26 of their motor graders for snow removal.  Soukup said some motor graders are much smaller than city plows and are not big enough to handle snow gates, lacking certain hydraulics for them to work.  It can also take some time to attach snow gates to the equipment.

"So that means if the snow gates are on and you don't want to spend the time to take them off, you really can only use the motor grader for plowing city streets," Soukup said.

That works for city plows, but Soukup said it essentially limits jobs contractors are able to do, like dirt work or even plowing parking lots, with their equipment.

"Our contractors would like to see the true cost of what snow gate is before they weigh in and decide whether it is something they'd like to see happen," Toby Crow, Executive Vice President of Associated General Contractors of South Dakota, said.

Though this week brought the biggest snowfall of the year, so far, it was not enough to test out the snow gates. 

"I think their biggest concern is they don't know what the true impact of the snow gates will be.  There have been some tests over two years.  Unfortunately, it didn't yield the best test data.  One being a very severe winter; the other being a very mild winter," Crow said.

Soukup and Crow said they are in no way against snow gates and understand they could make life easier for people who cannot clear out their own driveways.  However, pushing an election back to 2014 could be worth the wait.

"These hurdles can be overcome, but I think we need more information.  More time to do evaluation to see how they perform for contractors," Soukup said.

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