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Snow Conference withstands all challenges

It looks like nothing will keep APWA members from learning how to fight the snow.

There's no doubt that attendance at APWA's 43rd Annual North American Snow Conference was confronted with a number of challenges leading up to the conference, including a slowing economy, budget cuts in public agencies, SARS and the war in Iraq.

Nevertheless, more than 800 snowfighters from all over the United States and Canada gathered recently in Québec City to absorb the prodigious amount of available winter maintenance information. This year's premier event for snow and ice management took place April 27-30 at the Québec City Convention Centre and was hosted by the APWA Québec Chapter.

“The conference was a great success, and everyone seemed to like Québec City,” said Alain Legault, director of public works, Montreal-Nord, and secretary of the Québec Chapter. “We received many more participants than we thought there would be, considering all the world problems occurring at the time of the conference.”

“It was one of the best Snow Conferences I've ever been to,” said Bret Hodne, superintendent of public works, City of West Des Moines, Iowa, and member of APWA's Winter Maintenance Subcommittee. “The subject matter was very timely, and the cross section of people there was interesting. We heard presentations from people all the way from the State of Washington to across Canada, the Midwest and the East Coast. There was a good representation of topics and issues that are going on across the entire region of North America.”

The exhibit floor featured more than 100 vendors showcasing the very latest products and technologies necessary in snow and ice management and winter operations. “We received many positive comments regarding the exhibit floor, from the wide variety of products and services represented on the floor to the great door prizes the exhibitors contributed,” said Brenda Shaver, APWA manager of meetings.

Starting Monday, the General Session presented in the “talk show” format continues to be a hit with attendees. This year's session, “The Future of Winter Operations: Technology and Doing More with Less,” was a timely subject as budget cuts across North America are impacting public works agencies. Hodne was the talk show host and opened the session by presenting the highlights of what winter maintenance managers like him are facing.

The concurrent education session program began after the talk show session concluded. A unique aspect to this year's education program was that one out of four sessions was presented in French and interpreted into English, which allowed the native French-speaking winter maintenance professionals of Québec to share their knowledge with fellow Canadians and Americans. Also, to accommodate an exchange of knowledge between French and English speakers, a second session out of four was translated from English to French.

The hottest topic again this year was anti-icing, ranging from discussions on how to use salt brine to results from experimental testing projects. Also popular were discussions on Roadway Weather Information Systems (RWIS), fleet management, GPS and AVL projects, snow hauling and disposal, legislative issues and other new technologies and techniques such as Driver Assistive Systems for Snowplow Trucks and a Maintenance Decision Support System being developed to aid managers in deciding how to tackle specific conditions.

For the Closing General Session, Jean-Guy Courtemanche and Tom DeMaio, APWA Board Director for Region I, shared closing remarks, and the Bluegrass Branch of the Kentucky Chapter charged up attendees for next year's conference in Lexington, Ken., on April 25-28, 2004.

On Wednesday morning, more than 200 people gathered to go on the Technical Tour that took attendees to Henri-Bourassa artificial glacier, Québec City's largest snow disposal site. It was the end of April, and the snow was still about two school bus heights tall. Snow removal is so important to the city economically (because of tourism) that the city could repave every street and highway every year for what it spends on snow removal of its streets and sidewalks.

A big “thank you” goes to the Québec Chapter, led by Host Committee Chair Jean-Guy Courtemanche, for all of their hard work before and during the conference to make it a truly memorable and unique experience for everyone.

See you next year at the 2004 North American Snow Conference on April 25-28 in Lexington, Ken.

You can reach Kevin Clark by calling (800) 848-APWA or by e-mail at kclark@apwa.net; Michael Long can be reached at (800) 848-APWA or at mlong@apwa.net.

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