Winter weather recovery
Most schools and government services will resume normal service on Tuesday, following the Martin Luther King Jr. Day holiday:
- Gainesville city government: Has resumed normal service but will be closed for holiday on Monday
- Gainesville City Schools: Will resume Tuesday; Jan. 14 homecoming activities postponed until Feb. 1
- Gainesville garbage, recycling: Will resume Monday with extra crews Monday and Tuesday to catch up
- Gainesville-Hall County Senior Life Center: Will reopen Tuesday, including Meals on Wheels service
- Hall County government, courts: Furlough scheduled for Tuesday is canceled
- Hall County Schools: Will resume Tuesday; school board work session rescheduled to 5 p.m. Tuesday
- Red Rabbit buses: Will resume all routes Tuesday
- Truett-McConnell College: Classes resume Monday as Martin Luther King Jr. Day holiday canceled
- U.S. Postal Service: Has resumed where carriers are able to travel
As the ice thaws for the last time this weekend, Gainesville and Hall County officials are starting to measure the lasting effects of their “lost” week.
As both governments focused on cleaning up the winter weather aftermath, the offices canceled board meetings, postponed events and hesitated to make big decisions not related to snow.
“Our solid waste service was the most disrupted. Trash pickup will resume Monday,” said Angela Sheppard, Gainesville’s assistant city manager. “We had so many crews working on the streets. Public works, traffic engineering, public utilities, solid waste, golf course crews and parks and recreation were all using equipment to clear the streets.”
City officials are expecting a lighter council meeting on Tuesday since Thursday’s work session was canceled.
“There were a few items on Thursday’s agenda, and we’ll move those forward,” Sheppard said. “We had a lot of disrupted work this week, but our primary focus was to get the streets cleared for all the citizens.”
The city’s new trash rules, which started Jan. 1 to limit each pickup to 96 gallons, will be suspended until solid waste officials are back on schedule.
“We do understand that people are going to have more garbage than usual because we have missed that service for an entire week,” said Catiel Felts, the city’s director of communications. “No one will be penalized for that. We’re just going to pick up all the garbage that people put out there Monday and Tuesday.”
Hall County employees are facing the same challenge, especially as new faces join the staff. This was the first workweek for interim county administrator Jock Connell, who replaced Charley Nix, and interim finance director Lisa Johnsa, who replaced Michaela Thompson.
“Anytime you’re brand new, it brings a tremendous amount of challenge, but adding the snow and ice on top made it hectic. It was probably a good way to delve into Hall County,” Connell said Friday. “In some ways, it was a lost week, but some areas of the county worked more than ever and around the clock.”
In reality, the work that wasn’t completed will pile up for next week.
“The work still has to be done, and it’s just a readjustment of priorities,” Connell said. “I’ve noticed the last couple of days that people are eager to get back in and get caught up.”
At the county level, Board of Commissioners Chairman Tom Oliver extended thanks to Ken Rearden, public works director, who bought additional ice equipment in September.
With proceeds from the sale of surplus equipment, the county purchased eight snowplow attachments for county trucks. In the past, road crews used motor graders — construction equipment with a long blade that prepares roads for paving — to clear snow off of roadways, which slowed work on the 160 miles of county roads.
“He bought scrapes, and we made fun of him, but it’s to his credit that we had our roads clean before the state did. We almost had to help with some state roads,” Oliver said with a smile. “But this is a job well done for planning and public works.”
For Oakwood officials, the storm was a teaching moment.
“We did a lot of things out of the box,” city manager Stan Brown said Friday. “We sat down yesterday to make an inclement weather plan.”
Brown recommended that other local governments do the same.
“You’d think we would have one, but it’s in the heads of the police chief and the public works supervisor,” he said. “It’s good to get this down on paper for when we’re no longer here. It’s good to know what worked and what didn’t.”
As officials evaluate their responses this week, Gainesville City Council member Myrtle Figueras hopes they include the positive moments.
“There’s a lot we can control and a lot we cannot,” she said. “Our attitude around us toward the snow and ice is important, and workers have been working day and night. There’s so much we can appreciate around us and try to stay positive.”