Written by Mike Martin
Jefferson City comparison highlights nagging problem
COLUMBIA, 2/28/13 (Beat Byte) -- "No phone, no lights, no motor car, not a single luxury." Gilligans Island in the sun? Nope. Columbia, Mo in the snow. And if social media chatter is any guide, residents are not happy about the annual paralysis that sets in with even modest amounts of the white stuff.
School out for days; no mail delivery; widespread power outages; and no Internet, at least for Mediacom customers. Most importantly though, residential streets are left covered in snow and ice while public organizations such as Columbia Public Schools don't clear their sidewalks, presumably in violation of city ordinance. Children, parents, and teachers can't access the buildings so school is cancelled.
"No one has touched my street," wrote Barbara on Facebook. "I live south, near Nifong and Forum."
"No success here in southwest COMO," Cathleen said. Snow-covered streets there were "still bad."
"I have no idea why the citizens of Columbia put up with such poor service," said Leslie, who now lives out of state and compared snow removal in her city to Columbia. "Plowing is a necessity for the safety of the residents."
If conditions in Jefferson City are any guide, Columbia does have an unusual hang up about plowing. After this year's first snow last week, Jeff City streets weren't only plowed everywhere this writer drove, but virtually swept clean. Up hills, on residential side streets, even alleys -- snow had been pushed to the side, leaving the streets to dry in the sun.
Returning to Columbia brought the contrast home while raising an important question: Can Columbia residents afford this annual winter paralysis? The organizations charged with clearing streets; delivering mail, utilities, and Internet; educating children, and so forth don't come cheap. In fact, their prices rise every year, almost without fail, whether through tax or rate hikes.
Public service, however, seems to be falling behind.
"The city has obviously taken GIANT steps backward in recent years" removing snow, local businessman Duane Burghard explained on Mayoral candidate Sid Sullivan's Facebook page. "These two storms highlight just how bad the situation is. I would invite you to our neighborhood to see for yourself, but I'm afraid you might not be able to get here (or if you could, get back out)."
"There is no doubt the city needed a contingency snow removal plan for these heavy snows: stock piles of salt, snow plows that can be fitted onto city trucks (from pickups to garbage trucks) and the Parks and Recreation department to assist with their equipment," Sullivan replied. "They may need to qualify their drivers for on the road snow plowing, but how difficult is that to plan ahead?"