Public Works responds to criticism regarding Kirkland's response to snow storm

[box type="tick" style="rounded" border="full"]During the January snow storm, Kirkland Views received several emails criticizing the way the city handled snow removal. We asked Ray Steiger, Director of Public Works, if he would please respond to these concerns as evidenced in a letter penned by Scott Galbraith of Finn Hill. Mr. Galbraith's letter to Kirkland Views is below, followed by the response from Mr. Ray Steiger. We thank both gentlemen for allowing us to publish their views.

I would like to say that the Kirkland city works response to clearing the roads at least in the annexed areas has been pathetic.

Everyone has had to close their business in upper Juanita,  there has been no mail delivery on Finn Hill for 3 days now

Driving in from Bothell,  the roads are all plowed and sanded until you get the the Kirkland City line and nothing was done.

The city council needs to address this before we get a bad storm !!

Scott Galbraith[/box]


Thank you for the consideration Rob.  I appreciate the opportunity to respond, and having lived in the Kingsgate neighborhood for 20 years, I also understand the perspective of those in the newly annexed neighborhoods, their hopes with annexation, and their past experience with King County.

First of all, I want to thank your reader and the comments regarding Kirkland’s response to the recent snow event.  This is the type of feedback and information that is helpful in our post-event debrief and in refining the approach that we take in these types of events.  We are currently working with neighboring jurisdictions and our own staff to develop options and recommendations that we can implement to address the community issues that have been raised.

Prior to annexation of the Juanita, Finn Hill, and Kingsgate neighborhoods, City staff worked closely with the King County staff to, among a number of other transitional issues, ascertain their difficult maintenance access areas and their priority plow routes.  As of June 1, 2011, Kirkland adopted the same priority routes that were used by King County during their maintenance of the areas; this priority system is now published on the City web site and is used by King County Transit, Waste Management, Inc., emergency responders, and public works crews to best continue to serve the community during emergencies and inclement weather events.  You can view the map at:  These routes are those that receive the highest priority, are serviced first, and as time and storm patterns dictate, will typically remain the focus of our resources.

It should also be pointed out that due to revenue shortfalls in King County over the last few years, their resources and services have been dramatically reduced.  This trend had begun prior to the City’s annexation of the new neighborhoods and was widely publicized beginning in 2010 and well into 2011 as the County prepared their budget for 2012.  As a directly related example of their overall reduction in service, their current road maintenance priorities have changed significantly due to the reduction in available funds.  King County describes this recent change as such on their web site:  “Due to reductions in Road Services Division staffing for 2012, snow and ice routes shown here may need to be modified. Any modifications to the snow and ice routes will reflect what can be accomplished in 2012 with further decreases to our already limited resources. The modifications may also reflect implementation of the new tiered service level approach for road services, which will take effect in January 2012.”  Under this new tiered approach to delivering services, many roads in unincorporated King County that were previously designated as Category 1 routes (those receiving the highest priority and associated service), are now designated with lower priority and thus a reduced level of service.  A local example, the Juanita-Woodinville road north of the new Kirkland City limits, was previously identified as a Category 1 road by King County; it is now classified as a Level 2 road – service has been reduced; NE 160th Street between I-405 and 124th Ave NE appears to have been reduced from a Category 1 priority to a Level 5 priority.  Revenue available for King County to maintain the unincorporated roadway network has been dramatically reduced, and thus a comparison to King County “pre-annexation” service levels does not reflect service that would have been available to the new Kirkland neighborhoods had they voted to remain in unincorporated King County.  That being said, each event still provides excellent community insight into the things that worked well and to those that need to be improved.

Regarding the service that Kirkland provides and a bit of background, at the time of preparing to bring the new neighborhoods into the City, City staff “benchmarked” the existing City programs and used King County staff experience to project staffing and resource needs for the new neighborhoods.  Using those measures, snow and ice removal equipment was slightly enhanced in 2011 to begin to meet the anticipated needs of the new neighborhoods.  Additional resources are identified in future funding cycles however, similar to the situation that King County is facing regarding reduced revenues and a need to reconsider priorities, Kirkland faces similar constraints.  Over the next 2-3 years, if and as funding becomes available and the new and larger Kirkland priorities are refined, resources can be allocated to the various needs.  Community feedback suggests that support for a higher level of service in snow and ice is appropriate, and this support and feedback will be included in our post-event report to the Kirkland City Council.


Ray Steiger, P.E.

Public Works Director


Photos provided by Kirkland Views.