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Temple Plowing Cooperative keeping town tradition alive

TEMPLE — Up until 2011, the town of Temple had a tradition of plowing its residents’ driveways after big snowstorms . It’s a tradition that reflects the small-town atmosphere of neighbors helping neighbors. Two years ago, however, the town discovered the way they were doing things wasn’t legal. Instead of disbanding the practice entirely, the service took on a new form. And two years later, it’s still going strong.

The Temple Driveway Plowing Cooperative, a nonprofit cooperative organization, officially took over for the town’s driveway plowing services after it was discovered it is illegal to use town funds to plow private driveways.

The system and routes were already in place, and many of the town’s residents liked the convenience of the service, said the cooperative’s Plow Manager Steve Andersen of Temple. The formula was all there to continue the service as a cooperative, in which members pay a fee at the beginning of the year to receive plow services throughout the winter.

Immediately the cooperative had 255 Temple customers who were interested. This year, not only has that membership remained steady, it’s risen slightly, so now the cooperative has eight drivers servicing 267 customers.

A year after the cooperative began, the service is doing well, and able to provide plowing for residents for less than it would cost to contract a driver to plow a driveway following a storm.

When the cooperative started, they charged customers $1 per $1,000 of the value of their home. This year, they were able to reduce that amount to 50 cents, said Andersen, because there was a light snowfall last year, leaving the cooperative with a surplus to return to customers.

“We want to plow all of our member’s driveways for $25 or less per storm, and that’s an unbelievable rate,” said Andersen.

Last year, the cooperative met its goal of keeping costs down, serving 255 customers for an average of $17.84 per driveway per storm. This year’s average is on par with that so far, said Andersen, although the cooperative won’t know final numbers until the end of the snowy season.

“You could easily pay double, and probably more than double that in many cases,” commented Brian Kullgren of Temple, one of the cooperatives plow drivers.

Kullgren has been plowing town driveways for years — since he first obtained a driver’s license in fact, when he would help his father, the town road agent, clear driveways after big storms. The new way of doing things is different, but overall advantageous for the town and members of the cooperative, he said.

“I think the new system is in many ways much more efficient than having the municipality do it,” he explained. “It’s run more like a business. And it’s a fairer system. People that didn’t want the service were paying for it anyway through taxes. Now, it’s benefitting those that have need for it.”

Plowing as a subcontractor for the nonprofit cooperative isn’t as lucrative as it would be doing it privately, said Kullgren, but the drivers are all those that worked under the former system, and continuing it helps keep a Temple icon alive, he said.

Andersen is also one of the plowers, and said he and the other drivers understood going in they wouldn’t be making the same kind of money as in a private services, but there are trade-offs. They have timely payment, and a steady, established route to plow after each storm, which eliminates uncertainty.

“All of our drivers are self-employed and community-driven,” said Andersen. “You put that together with a long-standing tradition, and it’s going to work. You have to have a community spirit.”

To learn more about the Temple Driveway Plowing Cooperative or to print an application to join, visit its page on the Temple town website, at templenh.org/community-services/temple-driveway-plowing-cooperative.

Ashley Saari can be reached at 924-7172 ext. 235 or asaari@ledgertranscript.com. She’s on Twitter at @AshleySaari.

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