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Snow Plow Problems Have Worcester Residents Up in Arms

Thursday, February 28, 2013


Worcester residents are speaking out about the city's snow plow problems, ranging from unplowed crosswalks to overuse and damage to major roads.

Local resident, Elizabeth St. John of the Tatnuck neighborhood, says that the city’s response efforts have been misguided and irresponsible, despite the small amounts of weekend snow the area has received since Winter Storm Nemo.

“Even though we’re taxpayers, they don’t deliver the expected services for the return for that,” she said. During the snow on the weekend of February 16th, St. John said that despite the small amount of snow on the roads, her street was plowed “no fewer than ten times that day.”

She said that the city has not resorted to cheaper alternatives, like sand, keeping maintenance costs high.

“It’s causing us trouble being here, period.”

St. John is also concerned that the city’s mismanagement of snow removal will result in an increase in local taxes.

Who’s Responsible?

From the city's FY13 budget

According to the city’s most recent budget, the Operations Division within the Division of Public Works and Parks (DPW&P) is responsible for snow removal and street resurfacing.

Attempts made by GoLocalWorcester to contact Commissioner Bob Moylan were unsuccessful.

In the city’s fiscal year 2013 budget, the allocated funding for snow removal increased 10 percent in accordance with the Five Point Financial Plan. The amount is categorized as a “city fixed cost,” which make up 21 percent of the overall city budget. Of that percent, three percent is allocated to snow removal.

City Contractors

St. John said that the underlying problem is the city’s relationship with the plow drivers and street pavers and that the city wants to keep those contractors employed despite the small snowfalls.

“You’re seeing the same contractors every year. They don’t change anything up. The city administration will always say they don’t want to change and that they are satisfied,” she said. “They say if it’s not broken, don’t fix it. But it is broken.”

Tearing Up Streets

St. John said she had also noticed plows raising and lowering their plows, she believes, to break up the asphalt.

“In all fairness, there are many hills in my area, but at one point I heard a plow operator banging, lower and raising the plow blade in front of my house,” she said, adding that the embankment leading to the curb is cracked as well.

Jo Hart, who spoke at Tuesday night’s City Council meeting said of the city’s plowing job: “It’s only gotten worse. You spend public money to plow it on the sidewalks and on the curb. Nobody can walk anywhere, ever. Why don’t you stop the war and figure it out? We all need access. We all need to travel.”

An Alternative?

Mass. state Rep. John Bineinda (D-Worcester) introduced legislation that would give some potential aid to cities suffering from large snow removal costs.

The legislation would establish a $2 lottery ticket which would go to a statewide snow removal fund – the “snow bank” lottery.

An already existing alternative that the city could also employ, is sand and salt on the roads, something St. John says the city has been curtailing as of late.

“Some times that was all we needed. Why haven’t they sanded? It’s more economical and does the job,” she said. “Government exists to protect and promote the public’s interest, safety and wellbeing, and we don’t see that happening here consistently.”

She added that while she is happy to see the city making sure the roads are passable, this situation has been “very irresponsible.”

Crosswalks Blocked

At this week’s City Council meeting, Casey Starr, organizer at the Main South Community Development Corporation, discussed another issue with the city’s snow removal process.

Starr pointed out that while plows are doing an efficient job in the Main South neighborhood, their work is leaving piles of snow up to six feet high blocking the crosswalks.

“What I notice mostly is with the upmost respect and love for plow drivers which have an incredibly difficult job in our city, it seems as though we have one issue with plow drivers blocking the crosswalks,” she said at Tuesday’s meeting.

Starr said that the neighborhood is primarily pedestrian and many schoolchildren walk to ride the bus. Mothers also push strollers down sidewalks, and handicapped individuals also have a difficult time and are being forced to walk in the street.

“What’s happening in our inner cities, we are forcing our children walking to school to go in the street,” she said. “It’s really a serious public safety issue.”

Starr pointed out that while city code points to property owners being responsible, when called to a complaint, police officers are not given the ability to enforce this law at crosswalks – only on sidewalks.

“The Main South CDC is not specifically complaining about the plows. I’m not a plow driver, and I know it’s difficult,” she said. “but private property owners are not clearing the crosswalks and do not know they need to do so.”

Starr suggested some solutions to the problem including potentially collecting the snow from the intersection into the center instead of the sides, as well as getting those who are scheduled to do community service to shovel the areas. 


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