Benton County, state to partner on highway snow removal

Posted: January 31, 2018 at 1:05 a.m.

BENTONVILLE -- Benton County will partner with the Arkansas Department of Transportation to remove snow and ice from state highways under an agreement announced Tuesday.

Steve Lawrence, District 9 engineer for the state, said similar agreements exist with other counties and some cities, allowing the state to call on local resources in the event of a major winter storm.

Intergovernmental council

State law requires each county judge to meet with the mayors of the cities in the county annually to discuss areas where governments can cooperate. The Intergovernmental Council considers issues including law enforcement and jails, fire protection, streets, roads and highways, ambulance service, library services, parks and recreation, public transportation, planning and zoning and solid waste disposal.

Source: Benton County

"This is a major agreement on snow and ice removal," County Judge Barry Moehring said. Moehring announced the agreement at a meeting of the county Intergovernmental Council, made up of the county judge and the mayor of each city in the county.

Lawrence said the agreements stem from the experiences of the state and local governments during a series of winter storms in the winter of 2011-12. He said pictures of highways at the Arkansas-Missouri state line showing clear pavement on the Missouri side of the border and snow or ice-covered pavement on the Arkansas side, were widely circulated and prompted officials to see how they could better respond.

Lawrence said one thing Arkansas learned from Missouri is cooperation with state and local jurisdictions makes better use of resources. If an area is hit by a major storm, he said, the state has a priority list of highways based on traffic volume. In Northwest Arkansas, Interstate 49, U.S. 71 and U.S. 412 are in Class A, or the top priority, he said. Other highways are in Class B or Class C.

"Those are our major routes," he said. "Those are the ones we have to keep open to keep people moving."

Lawrence said the agreement allows Benton County to work on the Class C routes. He said those include Arkansas 94, 264 and 127 in the eastern part of the county and Arkansas 72, 102, 43 and 16 on the west side.

Arkansas 340 through Bella Vista is another Class C route, according to Lawrence. Bella Vista Mayor Peter Christie said his city reached a similar agreement with the department about two years ago.

"We have state highways 340 and 279 going right through the city," Christie said. "In reality, we were plowing them anyway. This certainly took a lot of pressure off us, knowing we have that financial cushion."

Moehring said the county and state have set a rate of $150 an hour for graders and $55 an hour for trucks if the county is called on. Lawrence said the agreement is for incidents where the county is asked to do a minimum of 12 hours work on the state highways.

Lawrence and Moehring credited state Rep. Dan Douglas of Bentonville with facilitating the agreement. Douglas said he has been working to improve cooperation between the state and local governments on this issue since the winter of 2011-2012 when he said he saw county graders working to remove ice and snow raise their grader blades when they reached a state highway then resume work when they turned onto a county road.

"This is what government is supposed to do, provide services for the people of the county or the cities," Douglas said.

NW News on 01/31/2018