Why the Board did not plow after the January snowstorm?
Based on the prevailing conditions of the first snow, the Board decided not to plow after the January 7th snowstorm. Because of our tight budgets, the Board does not take spending FFHA money lightly. Considerable thought goes into all expenditures, and this snow event was no different. The Board has to make decisions that are best for the entire community, not only for residents who live here year round, but for all property owners, even those that do not live here, and for those that don’t even have a house on their property. It was not very many years ago that plowing after any snow event would not have even been considered.
There is a Winter Roads Plan Regulation regarding plowing, with specific guidelines. It says that there must be 6 inches of snow measured in several areas. The most important measurement is at the bottom of the “S-curve” near Poplar Forest Road. As FFHA president Rob Greene explained, “When I measured the snow after the storm on Saturday morning at Poplar Forest Road there were 5 inches on the road surface and 6 inches in the grass. Based on this measurement alone we did not meet the regulation threshold to plow. At that moment the temperature was 19 degrees and dropping. The road surface was wet (which is why there was less snow on the road than in the grass) under the insulated layer of the snow. The road surface all over the Mountain was warm and still melting snow. Had we plowed at that moment we would have turned the entire neighborhood into a situation where no one would have been able to drive on any road. Due to the cold nature of the storm, the traction available on the road surface was still navigable with all wheel drive vehicles, without the need for cables or chains. Two roads plowed by volunteers instantly froze, and in my opinion, were less navigable than those that were not plowed.”
Cost of Snow Plowing
Plowing the mountain costs $3,500 per event. Plowing does damage to the road surfaces due to the equipment required. Rob further explained, “The only plow that works effectively on our steep roads is a three-way dozer blade mounted to a rubber tracked skid steer. This blade is very heavy and it doesn’t take much to dig up our newly coated road surface. Then there is the damage done to the shoulders. All this damage has to be fixed in the spring and it costs real money and time. A truck mounted with a conventional plow blade cannot do the job. We have tried. If you put chains on the tires of a big truck and try to plow, then even more damage will be done to our road by the spinning action of heavy truck tires on thin road surfaces. The average thickness of the road surface on the side roads is less than one inch thick and it doesn’t take much to dig it up. Yearly assessments affect everyone. One of the best things about living here is the fact that our assessments are so low. Plowing every time it snows without considering all the data would greatly increase these rates. I have heard from many more people than not who want the assessment to remain as low as possible. They want us to continue to work on our roads and other infrastructure projects as we have been doing over the last decade.”
Preparing for Mountain Living
Part of what makes living in Fairview Forest desirable is the rugged feel of our mountain. With this comes some personal responsibility. If you want to live in the woods, then we all need to be prepared for mountain living. In a snow event it is advantageous to have an appropriate vehicle — 4-wheel or all-wheel drive — and know how to use it. It is a good idea to have tire chains or cables if your vehicle is not equipped with four-wheel drive. Next, you can move your vehicle in advance of a snowstorm to a safe location (clubhouse parking lot, or where side roads meet the main road) that will allow you to walk to it to go to work, catch a flight, or just go to town. If you have to abandon your car in the snow, make your best effort not to block the roads. This is not Florida flatlands; nor is it a low-elevation environment.
We live on a mountain with nearly 2,000 vertical feet of elevation change in Fairview Forest. As for emergency services, the fire department was dispatched during this first snow and safely got the job done they needed to do. Rob was present at the bottom of the mountain with the fire chief, whose truck was equipped with a plow if it was needed to get the people out. Fortunately the snow had lots of traction, and they drove up and down without having to use the plow.
Striving to Make the Best Decisions
In closing, we have a regulation; Rob spearheaded the Board, carefully considered all of the facts, evaluated the situation, and made a decision in line with the regulation. We stand by it, and would make the same decision again in the same situation. We try to make the best decisions for the neighborhood as a whole, not just for any one group. Fortunately, there were no incidents during this storm. Fairview Forest remained safe, and when it snows again, the Board will evaluate the new conditions and make the decision in the best interest of all.