Unprecedented spring thaw creates service challenge at Novak

May 15, 2019

This paid piece is sponsored by Novak Sanitary Service.

There’s nothing Mike Keeran would like better than to send a fleet of Novak Sanitary Service trucks out to pick up trash for customers who haven’t seen them for going on two months.

Fortunately, a promising forecast could make that happen soon.

“We’re really hoping if the warm, dry weather keeps up we’ll be in the clear for a while, except for when there’s heavy rain,” said Keeran, Novak’s operations manager.

“We’ve done our best to communicate and provide alternatives, but this season has been a first for me. It’s been crazy to figure out.”

It all started a couple of months ago, when a deep freeze thawed and left dirt and gravel roads really soft, “down to a foot or a foot and a half, while normally we only freeze to 7 or 8 inches,” Keeran said.

Vehicles began to get stuck. Roads were damaged. Townships and road departments in Lincoln and Minnehaha counties asked heavy vehicles to stay off unpaved roads until further notice. Not everyone complied, but Novak did.

“The county and townships are going to be in a world of hurt having to repair the roads,” Keeran said. “We wanted to do our part in not destroying them. At the same point, we understand trash is a vital service, especially when it’s not being picked up.”

In some cases, Novak thought its trucks would be OK. They got stuck anyway, prompting a towing bill triple the usual amount for this time of year.

“We had one truck sink deep enough to damage the radiator,” Keeran said. “It was in a parking lot that we and the customer thought was fine, and the truck broke through it like it was ice.”

The Lincoln County Sheriff’s Department has shared photos showing how vehicles can sink to explain why Novak and others like it aren’t on the roads.

“And with these soft roads, we might not sink, but it’s really hard to control the trucks,” Keeran said. “We’ve had some drivers pulled into the ditch. Fortunately, no one was injured, but it still required us to pull the truck out, and when you send a tow truck, it does even more damage to the road.”

Novak sent letters and called customers, mostly in Lincoln County as well as parts of Minnehaha County. In Minnehaha County, several customers were close enough to paved roads and brought their containers there.

To help customers in Lincoln County dispose of trash, containers are provided west of Canton across from the city yard at 478th Avenue and Highway 18, in Tea at Pyro City and Maloney Inc., and at the Lincoln County transfer station at 280th Street and 471st Avenue.

“We know it’s not ideal, but we’re trying to ease the burden on customers, provide service and not damage the roads,” Keeran said.

Customers who want to check on the status of their service can call Novak at 605-338-7126.

“We appreciate and welcome the one-on-one communication because it allows us to explain what’s going on,” Keeran said. “We hope it will be behind us soon. We know it seems like it’s been forever.”

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Unprecedented spring thaw creates service challenge at Novak

“This season has been a first for me. It’s been crazy to figure out.” Things are finally looking brighter for Novak – and the customers it hasn’t been able to reach – after a spring that has created unprecedented service challenges.

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