County Unveils New Extreme Winter Weather Equipment
December 20, 2013
Casey Slaughter Becker, Office of the County Executive (608) 267-8823 or cell (608) 843-8858
Pilot Blizzard Busting Technology, All Wheel Drive Sheriff Interceptors,
to Help Keep Residents Safe During Severe Weather Events
With forecasts of a major winter storm moving into the area that is expected to dump heavy snow and create dangerous travel conditions this weekend, Dane County Executive Joe Parisi unveiled new equipment the county is using to help keep residents safe during extreme winter weather events.
“With extreme winter weather becoming the norm we are upgrading our technology to help keep residents safe,” said Parisi. “In addition to our new equipment, the hard working men and women of the Dane County Highway Department stand ready to make our roads safer.”
In each of the past two winters Dane County has experienced debilitating blizzards that have stranded motorists for hours and taxed public safety and public works resources.
At the direction of the County Executive, Dane County park staff have become an integral part of the county’s response to severe snow events. Last winter, these employees aided in search and rescue efforts on roads buried in drifts, and did household welfare checks on families stranded at home without power for, in some cases, 24 hours or longer.
This year, the county’s Parks Division is piloting new “blizzard busting” technology – track systems to prevent the staff’s off-road trucks from getting stuck in any condition – whether it be several feet of snow or the lowest wetlands in our parks. One vehicle will be outfitted to pilot the new system. The 2014 county budget includes funding for additional blizzard busters in the event the pilot is successful.
The remainder of the year, the technology will be used to help parks staff maintain natural resource and wildlife areas that are difficult to access with regular equipment.
Also at Parisi’s direction, the county took steps this year to improve the ability of county vehicles to respond to emergencies in adverse conditions. This year’s fleet of new sheriff’s squad cars are all four-wheel drive police interceptors – a marked change from the long standing tradition of acquiring only sedans for rural patrol deputies.
The county now has 16 new four-wheel drive vehicles ready to deploy during this winter’s toughest conditions, and with an additional $521,000 investment from the County Executive in the 2014 budget, stand ready to order additional vehicles next year.
The county’s Highway Department is also prepared, with 57 snow plows to clear over 2,500 miles of state and county highways across Dane County this winter. A quarter of the highway fleet has been outfitted with “double-wing” plow blades. The equipment helps quickly clear busier thoroughfares like the Interstate and Beltline, and plow highway on and off ramps in just one pass.
“This weekend’s holiday travel and snowy forecast will create difficult conditions for everyone, including our snow plow drivers,” said Parisi. “Please remember to slow down when approaching a plow. You may see a plow, but they may not be able to see you – giving a plow plenty of room, and keeping your lights on, makes a big difference and increases safety.”
Later this winter, the department will unveil a pilot fleet of two new snowplows that run on compressed natural gas (CNG) generated from decomposing trash from the county’s Rodefeld Landfill. The 2014 county budget includes funding for an additional eight CNG plows for 2014.
The county’s CNG fleet costs taxpayers less to fill up (BioCNG costs the county only $1.25 a gallon) and because the fuel burns cleaner, maintenance costs on vehicles are reduced as well. This switch to CNG has offset the use of approximately 25,000 gallons of diesel and gasoline in the county fleet, saving county taxpayers roughly $50,000 annually. These annual savings will only increase once the upcoming CNG vehicles are brought on line. The county currently has 30 CNG vehicles in its fleet.
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