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The Gillette Police Department outfits two patrol vehicles with snow tracks to tackle snowier conditions

The Gillette Police Department has outfitted two of their patrol vehicles with snow tracks to help navigate the city’s streets this winter, which has brought more snow and colder temperatures than in recent years. The two sets of “Track N Go” snow tracks will come in handy, especially in subdivisions that don’t receive regular snowplowing.

“It would probably take between an hour and two hours to install them on a vehicle, so it's pretty quick,” said Gillette Police Department Deputy Chief Brent Wasson. “Whenever the forecast is for heavy snowfall or a mix of good snowfall with heavy winds, we’ll outfit vehicles so that we can maintain our capabilities.”

The treads, which loosely resemble the ones used on snowmobiles, cost approximately $60,000 for both sets. The city’s vehicle maintenance department installs them when necessary. They’ve only been used one time since they were purchased.

“Any time the city administrator declares [a] Level A or Level B Snow Emergency in the city limits, it causes public works to focus on the emergency snow routes and that's to keep the city open,” Wasson said. “By doing so, it draws resources from the subdivisions, and the subdivisions are where we've had historically [some] problems getting our police vehicles stuck, responding to calls in subdivisions that aren't yet being attended to, so that's the main purpose so that we can maintain our response capabilities in those situations.”

There have been instances this winter when the department’s vehicles have gotten stuck in the snow, though Wasson said there haven’t been any instances of them being unable to respond to calls for assistance. The Campbell County Sheriff's Department has used tracks on their vehicles for years, including for getting first responders or other essential workers to work from their residences both within and outside of city limits if the roads don’t allow for normal driving conditions.

“They work very well in deep snow,” Wasson said. “I’m certain there's a situation where they could fail, but I can't imagine it because the chief and I actually ourselves went out and tested these when they got them installed this last time and they get around really well.”

The tracks limit driving speed from 30 to 40 miles per hour and also decrease the vehicle’s turning radius. Despite being a bit rough at times, they’ve proven to give a smooth and quiet ride in deep snow.

Currently, there aren’t any plans to outfit more of the department’s vehicles with the tracks. Wasson hopes there won’t be too many winter storms that make using the tracks necessary.

“For those times that they're [the city’s streets department] focusing on the emergency snow routes, and there's maybe like eight to 12 of them in the city limits, which aren't in subdivisions. And it's really to maintain our capabilities responding to calls in residential areas during snow events,” he said. “There's a lot of people in those subdivisions and they may need our help.”

The only time they’ve been used so far is when a police supervisor’s vehicle was outfitted with them in a recent storm. The tracks are being used only for marked police vehicles but there are plans to eventually outfit them on unmarked ones.

Hugh Cook is Wyoming Public Radio's Northeast Reporter, based in Gillette. A fourth-generation Northeast Wyoming native, Hugh joined Wyoming Public Media in October 2021 after studying and working abroad and in Washington, D.C. for the late Senator Mike Enzi.
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