- Virginia Burroughs Contributing Writer
When the snow starts falling and snowplows take to the roads, Miami Twp. residents will be happy to know that one of their drivers is among the best in southwest Ohio.
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Jon Taylor, a three-year driver with the township’s public works department, took second place in this year’s annual Snow-Plow Roadeo, an obstacle-course competition for snowplow drivers that challenges them in a variety of close encounter obstacles.
“This was the 30th annual Roadeo, hosted by the Public Works Officials of Southwest Ohio (PWOSO), and we don’t usually win,” said Dan Mayberry, director of Miami Twp.’s Public Works Department.
“I’ve been here 27 years, and we’ve participated all of those years, and probably the three years before I came. A former employee in the late 1980s took first place; then, about 15 years ago, another one placed 10th. Jon is our second highest place winner with second place this year.”
For Taylor, a West Carrollton resident, it was a second chance at the obstacle course. “I did it my first year and came in close to last,” he said. “This year, I had a good idea of what they wanted, did a bit of practice, plus I guess I got lucky.”
Public works departments from municipalities throughout southwest Ohio select two drivers to compete each year. “Most of our drivers have participated, but it’s been a long time since we had anyone close to the top,” said Taylor. “I was on my game that day.”
The competition took place last month in Mason, and PWOSO provided the trucks.
Taylor said, “Along the obstacle course, there are springloaded feelers and cones. One obstacle has the cones in a circle, like a cul-de-sac, and you have to touch three without knocking them over; another has you push a barrel into a certain spot, then stop it. On another, you have to go around a curve and have your tires so close to the cones without hitting them, and there are mailboxes with feelers where you have to get so close to hit the feelers without hitting the mailboxes. If you hit the feelers just right, you won’t get points deducted — the scoring is on a deduction system, not about points added.
“If you go overtime on any obstacle you get docked, and you have to stop and drop the plow in a certain time. There aren’t very big windows, and 90 percent of the feelers hit the passenger side of the truck, which is difficult, especially with the obstacle of two parked cars with two sets of feelers. There are only two obstacles where feelers are on the driver’s side.
“For the first time this year, the top five had to run the course a second time, and I scored 20 points better that time around.”
Taylor said the participants only knew their final scores, not how well they did on each obstacle. His favorite obstacle was the barrel push, his least favorite the cul-de-sac.
“But these are the same obstacles we run into when we’re clearing snow — going around mailboxes, parked cars, into cul-de-sacs, all similar kinds of situations.”
Although many municipalities were represented, Taylor only recognized Kettering and Deerfield Twp., “and a few were from ODOT (Ohio Department of Transportation).
“There were more than 100 drivers; each municipality sends two drivers, but you drive separately and are scored individually. Our second driver scored mid-pack,” said Taylor.
For his win, Taylor received a plaque and gift certificates, but the best part was his second place. “It was fun, and I got lucky, and now I have a goal: to go back and win first place.”