Downtown Bismarck businesses wait it out for snow removal

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BISMARCK, N.D. - Bismarck may not be on the verge of disaster, but there's plenty of the Public Works Department to do before anyone can say things are back to normal. Back to back storms have kept workers far behind schedule.

There's a long list of neighborhoods that still need to be cleared, and the downtown area is last on that list.

After a storm public works will clear out emergency routes and major streets first. Downtown businesses have to wait and owners say it's hurting operations.

Shirlene Irwin can tell you a thing or two about the "dead" of winter.

On a normal day, her store welcomes 10 to 25 customers.

But lately...

"We maybe have one or two brave souls come in," said Irwin, owner of Silver Thread Sewing and Upholstery.

Huge snow drifts, blocked entrances and less parking is causing trouble for downtown businesses.

"Snow is completely covering our loading zone, so it's causing difficulty for customers to find a place to park," said Irwin.

But the area isn't a high priority for the city's clearing. Actually, it's pretty much last.

Public works has nearly 40 pieces of equipment out daily, but it's still not enough to clear residential and downtown neighborhoods.

"We've faced a few issues with trucks getting around downtown, and then just getting backed up at their own warehouse," said Mike Iken, owner of Dakota Nuts and Candy.

Iken and other store owners cleared this walkway so that customers have a place to go and they shoveled this sidewalk- the responsibility of the store owner. He says he understands the city is doing their best, but he wishes downtown was a higher priority.

"If they don't get to it as quickly, then that cuts down on commerce. And so that's lost revenue for the city and for the state as well," said Iken.

Bisamrck Public Works Director Jeff Heintz says they've started to haul off snow during the evenings.

"We worked on Rosser and we worked on Main Avenue. We've got alot of snow in the downtown. This is probably going to take five days and five nights," said Heintz.

Owners say they understand the city is backed up, so all they can do is have patience and hope that old man winter retires early this season.

Not only is Bismarck having some trouble, but Morton County recently declared a state of disaster due to damages from the severe winter weather. ​