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Erik Burgess, Published June 10 2013

Moorhead City Council approves first reading of snow removal district changes

MOORHEAD – Changes could soon be coming to the snow removal district near the college campuses here.

A majority of City Council members here approved a first reading of an ordinance that would change the towing schedule following major snow events in the so-called Blue Snow District near Minnesota State University Moorhead, Concordia College and Eventide.

The proposed ordinance, which passed 7-1 on a first reading Monday, would synchronize the snow plowing and towing days with street maintenance no-parking days already present in the district. Councilman Luther Stueland voted against it.

It requires a second reading before being made into ordinance.

“This is what we want to see,” Councilman Mark Altenburg said. “We modify, and this policy evolves over time.”

The zone caused headaches for residents last winter when dozens of cars were towed after a major snowstorm, and motorists complained that the new snow removal and towing rules were not clear.

City Manager Michael Redlinger said Monday that the proposed changes make the process less confusing for residents who are already familiar with street maintenance no-parking rules.

“This is consistency across the board,” he said. “A no-park day is still a no-park day … whether there’s snow or not.”

For areas in the district north of 12th Avenue South, that would mean no parking on streets on Tuesdays between 1 a.m. and 7 a.m. and no parking on avenues on Wednesdays from 1 a.m. to 7 a.m.

For areas in the district south of 12th Avenue South, it would mean no parking on avenues Wednesdays from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. and no parking on streets Thursdays from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Curb-to-curb snow removal in the district would take place over a four-day period timed to coincide with the regular no-parking day for the affected area, with the difference being cars parked in violation would be subject to towing instead of a ticket if the snow district is in effect.

Councilman Mark Hintermeyer said the proposal was moving in the right direction, but he was still unsatisfied.

He said waiting for a maintenance day could mean that snow would sit in the streets for up to a week if the snow fell on the wrong day.

Director of Operations Chad Martin said every street in the city will at least get a first pass immediately after snow events, but in some cases, those snow district streets could be waiting around a week for curb-to-curb clearing.

The proposed ordinance would also expand the Blue Snow District, as recommended by the operations and police department.

The current boundaries are Fourth Street South to 17th Street South between Fourth Avenue South and 16th Avenue South. The proposal expands the Blue Snow District north to Main Avenue and east to 20th Street.

Before voting against the measure, Stueland moved to amend the proposal to not expand the snow zone for another year until the new towing schedule is tested. His amendment failed without a second.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Erik Burgess at (701) 241-5518