Don’t even ask.
Trucks, tractors and other municipal vehicles equipped for plowing snow cannot — repeat cannot — be outfitted to suck up leaves.
“We don’t do that,” said Tom Orzulak, street division manager for the city of Lawrence, with a slight chuckle. “But if I get $2 million I could rig up something.”
So instead, for nearly nine hours Tuesday, Orzulak’s crews spread out on 16 familiar routes to traverse Lawrence’s network of 805 lane miles to practice what they’re capable of, responsible for and familiar with: keeping the city’s streets clear of ice and snow.
And in this dry run, no leaf was left unturned.
“I made a couple mistakes on the plan, but that happens,” Orzulak said. “That’s why we have practice. There’s just a couple of word things I need to get changed, that were confusing.”
What hasn’t changed is the city’s level of commitment to clearing ice and snow, he said. Even as the city faces tight budgets and rising demands for resources, officials have not cut financing from snow removal.
The city even has stockpiled some 7,500 tons of salt and sand, much of it purchased this summer for potential use this winter. Another 1,000 tons of salt awaits on order, if necessary.
Last winter crews dropped 3,000 tons of salt and 4,500 tons of sand on streets and at Lawrence Municipal Airport.
“We’ve cut back other places and kept the snow removal,” Orzulak said. “That’s at the top of the list — all the emergency stuff. When we did the budget, we budgeted for all the emergency stuff first. …
“If it snows, we’re going to be here.”
In all, the street division’s 40 employees participated in Tuesday’s practice runs. The goal was to be sure all employees would be familiar with their particular snow-removal responsibilities, and to ensure that their equipment would be functional and ready to go at a moment’s notice.
This year’s snow-removal plan includes only three new or extended sections of public streets, Orzulak said: Champion Lane and an adjacent roadway in the Bauer Farms project, northeast of Sixth Street and Wakarusa Drive; and Franklin Road, between O’Connell Road and the Douglas County Jail. Reconstruction of the intersection of North Second and Locust streets in North Lawrence did require some adjustments to one route.
But the overall plan still holds, he said: The city’s major roads — such as Haskell Avenue and Iowa, 23rd and North Second streets — get cleared first, followed by roads with schools on them and then residential streets.