There's no business like snow business!

Bret Hodne
Superintendent of Public Works
City of West Des Moines, Iowa
Chair, APWA Winter Maintenance Subcommittee

If you live in an area of North America that gets the "white stuff," you probably know all about making a snowman, having a good snowball fight or sledding down a steep hill. However, if you are in a public works job where snow means keeping motorists from playing bumper cars on the roadways, you probably don't think the "white stuff" is quite so much fun.

Snow and ice control is serious business. The public works professionals that have responsibility in this area typically deal with a great deal of stress, work long hours and many times don't receive a lot of thanks along the way. For some unknown reason, however, most of us admit to getting a great deal of satisfaction out of a snow and ice control program that works well. Maybe it's because we know that someone made it safely to their destination, or it may be that our work allowed schools to stay open for the day. Whatever the reason, when you start talking with these folks you soon find out that they don't take their responsibilities lightly and they take pride in what they do.

Advancements continue to be made in the battle against snow and ice. Proactive maintenance activities are replacing reactive ones, new types of equipment continue to be introduced, and the deicing chemical arsenal keeps expanding. On top of all that, many agencies are learning about the importance of educating the public about "why we do what we do." At the past couple of North American Snow Conferences, we have seen several speakers talk about Open Houses, media presentations, school visits, and other ways that they have attempted to reach out to the citizens in their respective communities. With customer service such an important goal of many governmental agencies, these public relations efforts greatly enhance the overall image of a public works department and the city, state or county they work for. If an agency is really lucky, they may even see a significant decrease in calls from a newly "informed" public.

The APWA Winter Maintenance Subcommittee is currently working on several exciting projects. One of these projects is the initiation of a new APWA Snow and Ice Award that would be given out to agencies who have implemented "best practices" in their respective snow and ice control programs. Currently the criteria for this award are being discussed by the subcommittee members. We are attempting to develop awards for at least chapter and national levels. The intention of the award would not to be a competition, but rather a way to recognize organizations that are proactive in their procedures and practices.

Another project that is underway is the joint effort, working with the National LTAP association, to expand training opportunities for winter maintenance professionals. The goal is to identify deficiencies in current training practices and then implement new or additional programs to assist agencies in obtaining the best possible training for their staff.

In addition to working on various projects, the subcommittee has also been providing assistance to the APWA staff in the development of the program for the North American Snow Conference. Members have been seeking out speakers and topics to assist the program coordinators in providing timely and interesting presentations. Case studies of snow and ice programs from around North America have proven to be very popular. Attendees also find a great deal of value in trading ideas with each other—not only what has worked well, but also what hasn't. If you have some experiences that you would like to share about practices in your agency, please contact one of the subcommittee members or staff at APWA. If you are hesitant to volunteer because you don't see yourself as a public speaker, let us know and we will try to work out an alternate way for you to participate. We would like to see some fresh faces with new stories to tell.

Looking for some information now? Don't forget about the information we have available on the Winter Maintenance web page. You can access this site under the "Technical Committees" section on APWA's home page. We have several subcommittee members who are working diligently to update the web page with timely articles and information regarding snow and ice control practices. The site also contains links to numerous companies that sell snow and ice control equipment and services.

While this article is only a "snapshot" of a few items the Winter Maintenance Subcommittee is currently involved with, I hope it has provided you with some of the important projects this group of volunteers is working on. It truly is an honor to work with such a tremendous group of individuals who are willing to take the time out of their schedules to enhance and promote winter maintenance practices and activities. Armed with proactive practices, a highly trained and dedicated staff, and a winter maintenance-educated public, we too can have fun in the snow.

Bret Hodne can be reached at (515) 222-3536 or