snow storage

The snow storage area at public works is nearly 40 feet high. (Courtesy photo)

Rich Estes, who has lived in Telluride for 37 years, has officially been removing snow around town for 12 years. For the past eight years, he’s served as the town’s street superintendent, overseeing a staff of 11 full-time operators who maneuver a fleet of 15 snow removal vehicles.

“I’m not going to lie to you, I wished it snowed every day,” Estes said. “I love it.”

After a snowstorm like last week’s, the team’s first priority is to clear the Spur, round-about to round-about, then the Galloping Goose bus route.

“The schools are a priority as well,” Estes said. “We’ve got to get the kids in and out safely. Going and coming, we always do Main Street. We try not to go anywhere without the blade down.”

According to Public Works Director Paul Ruud, one of the hallmarks of the Telluride winter parking plan has been to “save” one side of each block for snow storage. But over the years, his department has repeatedly heard from residents and visitors that providing parking on both sides of the streets would be a welcomed change. So this winter Ruud and Estes decided to allow two-sided parking on almost all of the north and south streets south of Colorado Avenue.

“We are mimicking the program that has existed for some time on 100 W. San Juan Avenue,” Ruud explained. “With the intent of making our operations better and more efficient, in addition to the obvious benefit of more available parking spaces.”

The snow removal crew communicates daily, sometimes hourly, with three code enforcement officers from the marshal’s department via cellphones and a joint radio.

Jeanette Loven, who became a code enforcement officer last April, said officers enforce all parking laws throughout the year. She added that there’s been a marked improvement in snow removal this winter because community members are complying with signs and moving their vehicles, while public works is doing an efficient job of removing snow.

“The community’s cooperation in regards to center-lane parking, the meter rate increase, the Sunday meter enforcement and the new snow removal is appreciated,” she said.

In December, Telluride Town Council approved several parking changes. On Jan. 1, fees for parking meters increased from $1 per hour to $1.50 per hour, with the maximum time limit per meter remaining at three hours. Some parking citations increased from $20 to $25. If a ticket is not paid prior to the court date (9 a.m. on the court date), the penalty assessment doubles. (If a ticket is contested unsuccessfully, it is up to the town prosecutor and the municipal court judge to decide what the fee will be.) Non-permitted center-lane parking citations are now $40 and also double on and after court dates. Festival barricade violations are now $150, and there’s no longer free parking allowed on Sundays.

Loven reported that there were 1,834 citations and warnings issued from Nov. 1, 2018, to Jan. 30, 2019. Since the beginning of November 2019, 748 parking citations and warnings have been issued in town.

Cars must be moved by 8 a.m. on plowing days. It can be frustrating to residents who adhere to posted signs and move their cars only to find that at the end of the day, their street wasn’t plowed and no one from public works nor the marshal’s department bothered to change or “flip” the signs, Estes explained. 

“Right now all the signs are pretty much open because we never know when we’re going to get a snowstorm,” he added. “Not flipping signs helps with our manpower and the marshal’s manpower.”

If streets are in good condition and still functional, or if cars are parked so that snow removal equipment can’t maneuver effectively, then operators won’t plow a street. Given that snow removal is on weekdays from 8 a.m. are 5 p.m., if a street opens up at 4:15 p.m., for example, Estes said operators may not have time to plow.

Residents may also become frustrated when neighbors fail to move their cars on plowing days prohibiting operators from properly clearing the block.

Loven explained that community complaints can help address this problem, but that doesn’t mean citations, though potentially incentivizing, will be issued as officers try to contact owners to move their vehicles instead of automatically ticketing them. The department has towed several vehicles this winter that have hindered public works from plowing.

Public works must also address the challenge of managing all the ice that builds up on streets, especially on the south side, which can be hazardous for pedestrians. 

“When there’s a break in snow, it gives us a chance to go out and widen the streets a little more,” Estes said. “Once we do that, we can start chipping the ice off of those south sides and throwing some gravel on them.”

Estes pointed out that Mother Nature is his best employee.

“When the days get longer and the sun is up a little bit more and she’s ready to melt some snow, she gets right at it,” he said. “Then it’s full-on irrigating.”

Ultimately, Estes said, avoiding accidents is his biggest concern.

“We don’t want to hit anybody, and we don’t want to damage anybody’s property, so we’re keeping our heads on the swivel, keeping alert and watching out for people,” he said.