11 Listens: Dispute between Ark. city and AHTD leads to non-snow plowed roads

Searcy and state explain slow snow clearing

SEARCY, Ark. (KTHV) -- Friday’s winter storm hit areas north of Little Rock the hardest. That includes White County and the city of Searcy. But longtime residents of Searcy noted the snow and ice remained on that city’s main streets longer than they could remember.

One viewer reached out on our 11 Listens line wondering why other cities seemed to clear the streets faster.

It’s not for lack of equipment or problems with their equipment.

“We have two sand trucks,” said Searcy City Engineer Mark Lane. “We have one truck with a snowplow. We have one truck with a road grader.”

That usually handles most of the roads in the 15 square mile city.

However, Friday’s storm did present its challenges.

“When it starts snowing, the street department is out on the streets pretty much all the time,” said Lane. ”They might come in and rest a little while, but they're out most all night until they get their job done.”

But a viewer who works overnight shifts and grew up in Searcy sent us pictures showing three of the most traveled roads in the city still covered in ice despite all that work by Lane’s crews in other parts of the city. Lane and the state highway department said there’s a simple explanation.

Main Street, Race Street, and Beebe Capps Expressway are all state highways, and the local street department leaves the plowing on those roads to AHTD trucks.

“If they say they need a little help, we'll help them,” said Lane who added that they also clear major intersections on those main roads. “But we have a lot of other streets in town that have steep hills that we have to maintain ourselves.”

A spokesperson for the AHTD said its crews focus on primary roads first. The roads that stayed slick in Searcy are considered secondary routes. In that area, the first priority is clearing US 67/167. Logs show that major highway was cleared by Friday night, but the secondary roads in Searcy didn’t get checked off until the following evening.

According to Danny Straessle of the AHTD, many cities will let his department know they will take care of those secondary highways. Searcy did not in this case.

Lane said there is an economic consideration to how they approach snow removal, and he stands by how his team performed in this storm.

“We're in Arkansas,” said Lane. “We're not in a place that gets a tremendous amount of snow when we get it. And we don't get it every year, and so it's not economical to have all that equipment.”

Searcy police reported eight crashes and collisions and 15 other wrecks on Friday. No one was seriously hurt, with only one collision reporting an injury. Of those 23 call-outs, 14 came on the state highways.


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