Updated: 03/04/2014 10:19 PM
Created: 03/04/2014 8:42 PM WDIO.com
By: Travis Dill
Snow may not be wanted in the Northland, but if it falls again St. Louis County crews will be ready to clear sidewalks quicker than ever. Officials said a new tractor that arrived on Tuesday will save time and money.
A four-wheel drive tractor churned snow off a sidewalk along Midway Road on Tuesday and Highway Division Superintendent Kevin McConnell was happy with the sight.
“Yeah it's got a pretty aggressive razor type auger on there and kind of chows right through this stuff. It doesn't seem to stop at all,” McConnell said.
He said one man driving the $118,000 tractor can do what used to take a whole crew, and it can do it without blocking traffic because it's only 50 inches wide.
“Oh this goes a lot faster. As you can see, it walked right on down here. This is done. This would probably take us a day, five or six guys to get this done in a day, if we had to load this out with trucks,” McConnell said.
The machine may save on payroll with room for only one operator, but that meant workers were fighting to take it for a spin. Equipment Operator Jerry VanGuilder was excited to hit the sidewalks around Hermantown and Duluth to make them safer for pedestrians.
“It feels good. You point it toward a snow bank and it chews right through it,” VanGuilder said. “We have 20 some miles of sidewalk we have to keep open. Especially down on Haines Road we have a lot of handicap people so it keeps them out of the street and on the sidewalk.".
It does it all without plowing in driveways thanks to the snow blowing attachment.
“Yeah, I think the people are going to like it because when you come to the driveway you can turn the chute and throw it in front of you and clean it up as you're going instead of the plow coming by,” VanGuilder said.
He expects residents will enjoy the benefits of the new tool, and McConnell said workers already love it.
“It's got lots of power and good visibility, and you're all enclosed in a cab. You've got nice heat in there and stuff so what's not to like?” McConnell said.
The snow blower is just one attachment for the tractor. Officials said they can use it for hauling heavy loads on summer projects too. The St. Louis County Board approved the purchase of the tractor last month.
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