Oklahoma City Councilman Brian Walters, who represents Ward 5 on the city’s south side, suggested at this week’s city council meeting that the streets in his area were neglected during last weekend’s winter storm.
Walters suggested that because he didn’t personally see city trucks salting the roads, they weren’t given any attention. City staff members said south side snow routes were salted and got just as much attention as those in other parts of the city.
The city has a map of its snow routes on its Web site. Because the city doesn’t budget enough money to salt every street, these snow routes get almost all the attention during and immediately following a major snow storm.
Street Maintenance Superintendent Mike DeGiacomo assured me all of the snow routes got the same amount of attention during the most recent winter weather. The city sends circulates trucks on the routes as often as possible during a storm. With 1,100 lane miles of snow routes to get to, streets may not be salted as often as residents would like, but crews do the best they can.
The ice storm hit Oklahoma City Thursday morning and continued all day Friday. Walters insisted that the southern portion of Western Avenue, which is a snow route, wasn’t salted or plowed at all until Saturday evening. Not true, according to DeGiacomo. He said appearances can be deceiving.
Salt helps to melt snow and ice already on the street, but with snow continuing to fall all day Friday, a road salted multiple times could look untouched hours later.
Walters’ comments are reminiscent of a historical north/south divide that once divided the city council. During the early 1980s especially, feuds between northside and southside council members were common and divisive. City leaders tried to reject that mentality as the first MAPS plan unfolded, and the north/south divide has been virtually non-existent since I’ve covered the city since 2003.
This isn’t the first time Walters has tried to revive the provicncial attitude shortly after he was elected in 2007 as the city was preparing a general obligation bond issue for voters.
Walters complained that his ward wasn’t getting its share of the money for road projects. City officials said projects were included based on need. Unlike other areas that got more attention in the bond issue, nearly all the section line roads in Ward 5 were already four lanes and in generally good condition.
Other council members and Mayor Mick Cornett are protective of the unity the city has maintained in recent years and were not pleased with Walters criticism of the bond issue.
I wonder if city staff members will offer to let Walters ride along as the roads are salted in his ward the next time winter weather hits.
- Staff Writer Bryan Dean