By Gordon Boyd
Eyewitness News Reporter
CHATTANOOGA (WRCB) -- Three days after the first big snow of 2011, Mark Herndon's getting out to check his home remodeling project in Chattanooga's Fort Wood district.
He's trying to avoid getting stuck there.
"I pulled up this way, and stepped on the brakes, and slid on the way down the hill," Herndon says.
He was in a pickup truck.
The driver of a BMW coupe had to call a towing service to get unstuck, and back down the hill. In reverse. Guided.
"Does it look like they've done anything over here at all? Not this one, " Herndon says.
Chattanooga's City Services Command Center processes 3-1-1 requests for salting, sanding and plowing, by Zip Code.
The starting point is first-call, first-serve.
"Understand that Chattanooga Police, Chattanooga Fire, medical issues, are gonna be at the top of the priority list, Deputy Director Tony Boyd says.
"There's a certain amount of citizen input we can rely on. And it is on the honor system. There's only so much time we have to verify emergencies."
Translation; cabin fever is not a medical emergency. Tackling a hill that's more than your tires or transmission can handle is rarely a justifiable use of a plow crew.
Chattanooga has 13 salt and sand trucks.
5 motor graders.
Some operators are working 16-hour, rather than 12-hour shifts.
"The lower temperatures caused us to park our brine and roll back salt and sand operations," Boyd says, "That creates a little bigger problem for our motor graders and plows."
The meter's been running since 6 o'clock Sunday night. As of noon Wednesday, Chattanooga had spread 1,872 tons of salt or sand, costing about $100, 898.26. The brine bill is $15,994.45.
Overtime exceeds 978 hours, or more than $22,000.
Boyd won't hazard guessing when to call, 'all clear,' for Chattanooga's 1250+ lane miles of streets and roads.
But Herndon's hopeful for the weekend.
"It's supposed to get up to the 50s," Herndon says "So it'll clean up and I'll be able to get to my other job sites."