JACKSON, Wyo. — Jacksonites who live in alleys have been assured that their alleys will be plowed when needed this winter after a previous discussion from the town of not plowing alleys and parking lots from Thursday until Monday.
The town had discussed cutting areas out of plowing while looking at how to balance out a straining budget. Originally, the town had hoped that a higher budget would be achieved if the general penny would pass on the ballot in early Nov., but then it was voted down.
Many residents reached out to the Jackson Town Council who were concerned that they wouldn’t be able to get out of their parking spaces if alleys were not cleared after heavy snowfall. Residents were also concerned about emergency response teams not being able to get to their homes should an emergency occur. Another concern was that residents would be pushed into riding the START Bus, and therefore have higher chances of picking up COVID if they could not move their cars and were forced to commute with others.
Already alleys have been affected by lack of plowing. The alleyway behind E Kelly Ave. west of Redmond St. is an example of one area that was considered not to plow. After the heavy snowfall Jackson received back in November, the alley wasn’t plowed right away. This left deep, icy ruts throughout the entire alley that residents say was a struggle to drive through.
At its regular meeting on Monday, December 7, the Jackson Town Council voted to direct staff to dedicate $21,000 to fill a vacancy for a seasonal snowplow driver. This position was frozen last year during the budgeting process as extensive shortfalls were projected due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Even though the town was busy all summer, sales and lodging tax were down significantly from the prior year. In June alone, sales tax was down 28% and lodging tax was down 74%. That percentage reduction improved to single digits by August but dipped again in September when sales tax was down 20%.
The town planned for this downturn, but only balanced this year’s budget by drawing on nearly $5M from a rainy-day reserve fund that they say is not easily replenished.
Town Council has discussed the snowplow position and other unfilled roles extensively. The council determined that filling this role for the winter will ensure the safety and high level of service town constituents have come to expect and will provide a potential buffer should the streets team be affected by COVID.
Once the part-time snowplow driver is hired, the Public Works Department will have dedicated staff on the schedule to plow streets, alleyways, and parking lots daily. The town’s plowing program includes plowing of all alleyways, parking lots, and streets before 8 a.m. during snow cycles.
At the meeting, Johnny Ziem, Assistant Public Works Director for the Town of Jackson, said that plowing would also depend heavily on the amount of snowfall and if members of his team, specifically plow drivers, are out from COVID or not.
Town Council approved hiring a snowplow driver with a 4-1 vote. Councilor Arne Jorgensen highlighted that this is only the beginning of hard conversations about the town’s budget and limited resources.
Jorgensen said, “This is one frozen position among many and though winter is upon us, a snowplow driver is no more important than positions that are not being filled in other departments. Difficult budget discussions will continue, and we hope to educate everyone in town about how much the town has already cut and the realities we will continue facing in future budget cycles.”
About The Author
Buckrail @ Jacob
Jacob Gore was born and raised in Cheyenne, the capital city of Wyoming. As a proud Wyomingite, he loves to share his home with visitors from around the world. Spending years in Jackson and Alaska as an interpretive nature guide, he remains a photographer, traveler, storyteller, and avid hobbyist of all-things outdoors. Jacob enjoys bridging the connection between Jackson and the rest of the state.
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