The city is stocked up on sand and salt to combat winter weather, but Lawrence City Hall leaders also are hoping to add technology to their weapons to battle Mother Nature.
The city’s GIS department has developed a new computer program that one day will allow city residents to go online to see which streets already have been plowed or treated.
Currently, the program is in the test mode and not yet available to be accessed by the public. That may change later this winter, depending on how well the system ends up working.
“We want to make sure we’re providing good information before we open it up to the public,” said Mark Thiel, assistant director of public works. “But our goal is definitely to have a city website that allows a citizen to wake up on a morning with three inches of snow on the ground and be able to figure out the best route to get to work.”
Thiel said the city has seen similar programs available for purchase, but usually at a cost of $200,000 or more. The city instead asked GIS Coordinator Micah Seybold to develop a program in-house. Thiel said the system will produce an online map that marks streets either green or blue or black based on whether they have been treated, plowed or still remain to be worked.
The system won’t quite use real-time data, but will be close to it. Since the city’s trucks don’t have GPS units, the information will be updated as drivers radio back to supervisors that a route is completed.
In other winter weather news, city engineers are reporting that the city will start the season with large amounts of sand and salt stockpiled.
The city will start with 4,000 tons of salt on hand and another 1,000 tons on a hold order. The city used about 4,900 tons of salt last year. The city also will have 1,000 tons of sand and 2,500 tons of a salt-sand mix. The city used about 3,700 tons of sand last winter.
Last winter, though, was one for the record books. The city received 42.45 inches of snow, including a Christmas Eve blizzard. That caused the city to spend $700,000 on snow-removal operations, which was about $400,000 more than normal.