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McLeod County Public Works crews keep roads open for you

To the editor,
As we brought in the New Year last week, McLeod County residents had the ability to drive where they needed to get to our party destinations. Nature was having a different way of bringing in the New Year with a snow and ice event that caused some concern for travelers. However, the roads were usable and for the most part safe. But how did those roads get cleared? We just assume that if we want to drive somewhere, we just get in and drive, right?
There are many people involved in keeping road systems free and clear, as we look at state, county, city and township efforts to maintain a level of safety. This work is not easy and requires skilled operators and the proper equipment to do the job right. I would like to highlight McLeod County’s line of defense against nature’s storm systems -- the McLeod County Public Works team.
Although this was only a week ago, we should remember that the days leading up to 2019 were snowy and full of freezing rain – a perfect mix for accidents to happen. McLeod County Public Works employees put in long hours to prepare our roads for such an event. McLeod County has nearly 400 miles of roads to maintain; 300 of these miles are blacktop/concrete and 100 miles are gravel. Snow and ice crews are deployed from four shops: east of Silver Lake (SLATS), Hutchinson (HATS), Brownton, and Glencoe, making up 14 different routes. Each driver navigates miles of roads, shoulders and intersections sometimes multiple times throughout night and day to keep roads clear and safe. Although some of us “tough Minnesotans” use 4x4 vehicles, roads need to be cleared for smaller cars, school buses and emergency services like law enforcement, ambulance and fire trucks that may need them at any time. If the word ever goes out that we “pulled the plows,” then you know it is bad.
Driving our bright red highway trucks in a snow/ice event is not an easy task. Not only are the drivers piloting a truck that is loaded to 60,000 pounds in rough conditions, they need to be constantly operating numerous controls as they navigate. Steady adjustments to blade height and pressure, side wing operations, underbody blade, salt/sand spreader and box height are all adjusted throughout the process. All of this while watching for mailboxes, signs and other drivers on the road (that have become a risk as well as they are on the phone and checking text messages while driving in a snowstorm).
New Year’s Eve was a 13-hour day for the crew as they tried to scrape ice and blowing snow off the roads so nighttime travelers could reach their destinations safely. A 5 a.m. start was mandated for drivers on New Year’s Day to hit the routes again and try to stay ahead of road conditions. During other snow events, our drivers are often put on “standby” and asked to stay home and be ready for the phone call to start at any time. During the week, school superintendents share early-morning phone calls with our highway department, MnDOT and city public works to decide on late starts and cancelations for students’ safety.
Our drivers are trained and prepared to keep our county road system safe. They work long hours when needed and are proud of the work they do. So, who are these people that do all of this? Here is a list of the crew that drives the trucks and maintain them so all of use can go where we need to go during bad weather. Also included are the years of service for McLeod County Public Works Department. If you see these people or know who they are, please say “thank you” for their work.
Brian Schrupp, 40 years; Doug Karg, 33 years; Dave Polzin, 30 years; Bryan Michaelis, 29 years; Pat Schommer, 28 years; Craig Glieden, 18 years; Ron Metag, 17 years; Phil Messner, 13 years; Tom Kube and Jason Zajicek, five years each; Joel Ide, four years; Ben Schmidt, three years. Those with over one year of service in public works include Matt Tews, Eric Gutknecht, and Geoffrey Hansen.
Thank you,
Paul Wright
McLeod County