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Snow Plowing Facts & Policies

As everyone is clearly aware this has been a challenging winter both in terms of frigid temperatures (coldest winter in 25 years) and street maintenance, particularly due to the persistence of light to moderate snowfalls. During the two week period of January 9 through January 21 alone, the City had 10 salting and/or snowplow operations that required the application of 560 tons of salt. As a result, the Department of Public Works is already tapping into its stored reserves for next winter.

It should be noted that Franklin is also an environmentally sensitive community. An example of this is the application of a salt brine mixture called Geo-Melt to reduce the potential of hard pack snow and ice on streets. In addition, a recent water quality study illustrated that the controlled use of road salt (sodium chloride) and calcium chloride has improved the quality of melted snow runoff into the Root River. 

To appreciate the task of keeping streets operational, let’s look at a few basic facts about the City of Franklin. Our City covers 34 square miles and encompasses 166 road miles. In full operation, the DPW has 16 snow plow drivers to cover the entire City which is a composite of streets with curbs and gutters, rural roads, cul de sacs, and roads with dead ends. Each of the 16 drivers has a standard route to cover and under normal operations only one person is assigned to each vehicle.

Due to the frequency of snowfalls this winter, some recurring questions have arisen from Franklin residents regarding the street cleaning procedures employed by the Department of Public Works. Those inquiries have been addressed below:

Dept. of Public Works

7979 W. Ryan Road
Franklin, WI  53132

Phone:  414-425-2592
Fax:  414-425-7315

Hours:  M-F, 7 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.

Department of Public Works

Kevin Schlueter, Superintendent
Rich Katzfey, Asst. Superintendent
Tom Riha, City Forester
Andrea Stormoen, Admin. Assistant


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  What is the difference between road salt and Geo-Melt and how are they used?

All de-icing chemicals have distinct properties and freeze points. Traditional road salt (sodium chloride) is the principle means of treatment but has limitations during colder temperatures.

During moderate temperature conditions (temperatures over zero) a salt brine may be employed as a pre-storm anti-icing agent. It consists of 2.5 pounds of salt per every gallon of water. This brine is applied at a rate of 40 gallons per lane mile. Treated miles include City arterials and primary collector streets. A second route of rural and business park roads are then serviced. It takes one truck with a mounted tank sprayer approximately four hours to cover 22 miles.

Geo-Melt, or beet juice as it is commonly referred to, is a natural agricultural product which makes it environmentally friendly because it does not contain all the corrosive properties of calcium chloride, an alternative cold weather chemical. It is applied as a pre-storm agent to prevent ice and snow from bonding to the pavement.

  When is it determined that there is a snow emergency and who makes that decision?

Each storm has its own characteristics with variable conditions such as duration, wind velocity, air temperature, and moisture content. Snow plowing and ice control operations begin as standard operations until – or when – the Mayor is advised to declare a snow emergency. It is a judgment call based on several factors: the weather forecast, snow intensity, and reports from the police department as to when road conditions become hazardous.

Generally speaking, emergency operations go into effect when the snowfall turns to blizzard or near blizzard status with poor visibility or when the streets are completely covered with ice or heavy snow.  Light, but persistent snow flurries, interspersed with sub-zero temperatures, have made road maintenance particularly challenging this winter. For the most part, the persistent snowfalls have kept Franklin’s road crews busy, even though they have not reached the level of a declared snow emergency.

  How does the City determine which streets receive priority in plowing operations?

Thru streets take priority in maintenance because they must handle higher volumes of traffic and need to remain clear for emergency vehicles, i.e. police, ambulance, and fire. Neighborhood roads and cul de sacs are more time consuming to clean out and are plowed in the best possible time frame depending on the severity of the storm and the ability to keep main streets and arterials open to all thru traffic.

  Why are there trucks out on days when the streets are already clear of snow?

On days when the streets are dry and the sky is clear, public works drivers often go out to do follow up maintenance, such as cutting back snow banks or cutting away frozen edges of snow that never had a chance to melt. This may occur along certain highways or along neighborhood side streets. As a result, public works trucks may be seen traveling down primary connector streets to reach the neighborhood roads in need of more maintenance. These measures help relieve plowing operations during the next storm.