Terrorizing snow? 

It’s not Santa but the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) providing the city of Missoula with goodies this season. Last week, DHS granted the city $81,000 for the purchase of three back-up generators for the fire department, says Brentt Ramharter, city finance director. Missoula County has also benefited from DHS funds, says Chief Financial Officer Dale Bickell—$791,833 over the past two years, most directed to the sheriff’s office.

Goody-wise, the city also expects a new snow plow—the scoop, not the truck—to arrive before Christmas, but the plow is a standard semi-annual-or-so purchase not subsidized by DHS. Was city fleet manager Jack Stucky naughty this year? “We haven’t been able to tie snowfall to homeland distress,” explains Stucky. But he’s both optimistic and mischievous: “As soon as I can figure out a way to do it, I’ll do it.”

Coordinating plowed streets, after all, promotes safer city commutes and is no small undertaking. Brian Hensel, City of Missoula street maintenance division superintendent, keeps the Snow Book—officially, the Street, Snow and Ice Control Plan, an inch-thick manual that, among other things, prioritizes streets for plowing. Crew members plow main arteries, like Brooks and Reserve streets, first, Hensel says. Residential streets aren’t plowed until they’re covered by four inches of snow. When they don’t plow residential streets, disgruntled residents call him to complain. When they do plow, Hensel says, drivers inevitably leave snow berms piled along mailboxes, driveways and parked cars—and disgruntled residents call him to complain.

“We don’t come back and clear them out,” explains Hensel of the snow berms. “We would never have time.”

The city sometimes bids on used—thus less expensive—plows, Stucky says. Once he purchased four plows from Florida. To his surprise, the plows were visibly worn.

“I’m still scratching my head to figure out how they wore them out,” he says. The recent scoop—a new one—costs $13,991, and Stucky, hints of both naughty and nice in his voice, muses aloud over ways to finagle DHS money for snow accoutrements: “The terrorists may try to freeze us out?”

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