New city employee will have responsibility for winter

Minneapolis is getting a Snow Boss.

The Minneapolis City Council voted Feb. 27 to create the job of Director of Winter Operations, at the request of Public Works Director Klara Fabry.

Fabry said she got the idea from attending the North American Snow Conference in Quebec last year.

"Most municipalities -- I am talking about winter or snow municipalities -- who are very customer-focused and providing a high level of service to [their] citizens, most of those municipalities had a snow boss -- a person who was responsible to focus on these winter months."

Public Works is not trying to fix a problem as much as it is trying to find ways to improve services in tight budget times, she said. With money limited, the Department can either cut services or increase efficiency.

The Snow Boss had better produce: he or she will be paid $94,119 to $104,026, according to Council direction. (Don't call the payments "slush funds.") The city is eliminating a lower-paid engineering position to create the Snow Boss job. Fabry said she did not have a timeline for filling the job.

Fabry didn't have specific projects for the Snow Boss to implement, such as 24-hour snow plowing. "I don't want to prejudge the outcome of that," Fabry said.

The Snow Boss could prepare better strategies for responding to back-to-back snowfalls or investigate alternative parking systems, she said.

"You know very well managing winter operations is more about managing parking than anything else, to enable the city to keep the network clean," Fabry said.

The Snow Boss could look beyond clearing travel lanes and focus on pedestrian movement -- making sure intersections are cleared so people can make safe transit connections, she said. The Snow Boss also could seek more environmentally friendly de-icing materials.

What does the Snow Boss do when it's not winter? He or she will have several other responsibilities, including as Public Works' emergency response coordinator and overseeing the city's multiple Special Service Districts, such as Nicollet Mall, where property owners pay extra for a higher level of service.