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Snow options continue to be weighed

May 5, 2019 GMT

Most of our snow has melted, but small piles linger in Silver Lake Park, where tons of it was taken after downtown streets were cleared throughout the winter.

Rochester Park Board member Dick Dale has been vocal in demanding this be the final year that those lingering piles exist.

“They are killing the trees, and we are asking to not have that happen,” he said during a recent Park Board meeting, suggesting the board consider a move to ban the use of the park to store snow.

Public Works Director Chris Petree said he’s heard the concern.

“We recognize that we need more options” for snow storage, he said, noting he’s been looking at alternatives near the city’s central business district since shortly after he started his job in May.

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It’s too early to promise that Silver Lake Park won’t see piles of snow next winter, Petree said, but if that happens, he said, it would be the last time.

Petree said many options are being discussed, especially in the wake of a record-breaking winter that overwhelmed the Silver Lake Park site and eventually sent truckloads of snow to Olmsted County property on the east side of Rochester.

Petree said adding distance from downtown affects the efficiency of the snow removal, which is generally conducted overnight following heavy snowfalls. A longer distance takes longer to drive, and requires more staff time and fuel.

Of the alternative storage sites being discussed, Petree said, one of the most promising is at the Silver Lake Power Plant, where operations continue to slow as Rochester Public Utilities still generates steam for Mayo Clinic facilities.

Mark Kotschevar, RPU’s general manager, told Public Utility Board members Wednesday that ongoing demolition activity at the site needs to be taken into account, but it should be a workable solution.

“It looks like it’s a potential benefit to Public Works that we can accommodate,” he said.

Petree said Public Works and RPU are working with a consultant on designs needed to prepare the site, noting drainage issues will be a concern without proper infrastructure in place.

That work is what Petree said could delay efforts to turn away from the Silver Lake Park site.

However, he said the commitment to abandon the existing snow storage site by the time snow falls in late 2021 is crucial, noting it will coincide with plans to dredge Silver Lake and make other park improvements.

“The very last winter would be this upcoming winter,” Petree said.

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