Street department to address city potholes after thaw

By Kelly Terpstra,

The winter thaw has begun.

With that melting of snow and ice comes water and one more nuisance drivers will notice — potholes, starting to pop up all over Charles City.

Potholes are created by snow and ice melting, then seeping down into the cracks underneath the pavement. The water then refreezes, causing it to expand and forcing the street above it to rise. Repeated travel over this expansion creates divots, which then break up over time and turn into potholes.

“It just gets moisture and the freeze thaws just keep moving it and breaking it up. Then we end up with bigger potholes,” said Dirk Uetz, Charles City street superintendent.

Uetz said his crew is still working on snow removal all over the city, but once the streets are finally void of snow and ice the work to repair potholes will begin.

“Right now all we can do is use cold mix on them,” said Uetz. “Usually, like in the summertime when we do them, we total patch them.”

Uetz said his workers fix probably at least 100 potholes a year during the spring and summer months.

“We’ll get done what we can get done,” he said.

Added precipitation in the form of rain can hinder a pothole fix. That means Uetz watches the weather forecast.

“If it rains, it’s pretty hard to put blacktop into holes because you’ll get water in them. It just defeats the purpose,” he said.

The issue now for Uetz’s eight full-time workers is clearing the ice and snow off Charles City’s streets. Then he’ll know how many potholes his staff will be dealing with this spring and summer.

“Some of the streets aren’t uncovered yet, so it’s hard to tell,” he said.

Driving on certain streets in Charles City can be a bumpy ride this time of the year. The snow and ice that packed down on the streets is breaking up, which results in tough sledding for motorists.

“Today we’re out with the maintainer with ice blades on it trying to smooth them back out and cut them out,” Uetz said.

There are several areas along streets where there is no place for the water to go, which causes standing water and flooding.

“We’re working on making sure the intakes are open so the water can get to the intakes. Some of them it’s areas where there is no intake where you see the puddles,” said Uetz. “Most of them we’ve tried to dig out. There’s depth of at least 6 inches of ice and it can be a couple feet away from the curb.”

Uetz said areas of concern where there are potholes are by the intersection of North Grand and 4th Avenue, as well as along South Main. Another intersection he mentioned that has a couple large potholes was at the intersection of Clark Street and Brantingham.

Uetz said a number of factors come into play in how soon a certain pothole gets fixed. The size of the pothole and how well-traveled a street is are part of that decision.

“Most (people) understand what we go through. We try to work through it and get them done in a timely fashion,” said Uetz.

Uetz, who has been street superintendent in Charles City since 2007, said this winter has been one of the worst he’s experienced. Snow and ice removal are Uetz’s top priority right now.

“Snow plowing takes front and center over everything else,” said Uetz.

While potholes will become a priority soon for Uetz’s crew once the temperature stays above freezing, they’ll also soon begin flushing the sanitary sewer systems.

“We’ll keep working through our seasons,” Uetz said.