By LINDSAY CAREY
Highway Superintendent Steven Wlodkowski shared his insight on how snow removal operations in Southington has been going this year at the Public Works Committee meeting on Feb. 4.
“It’s actually been a good, eventful year even though in January we didn’t get a lot of snow,” he said. “We still got a lot of ice.”
He attributed the early ice for the town’s declining supply of salt.
“Although we started out with a good supply this year, the ice in January kept freezing and refreezing, and then in February we’ve been getting hit with snow storms,” said Wlodkowski.
In addition to the large snow storms we’ve been facing in February, Wlodkowski pointed out that even the small storms can have a big impact on the supply.
“You’re going to have to put material out, you just can’t ignore it,” said the highway superintendent.
In addition to the shortage of salt, the department is experiencing some issues with the transportation of the salt from the supplier in New Haven.
“We have salt we just don’t have a lot of it… We probably have enough right now for two legitimate snow storms,” said Wlodkowski, “Although I’m sure we’ll get supplied, you never like to get down to the wire.”
Another concern regarding snow removal has been the challenge of plowing bus stops. Apparently the Highway Department and some town officials have been receiving a lot of calls from parents about the bus stops not being plowed.
“We don’t do bus stops, we’ve never done bus stops,” said Wlodkowski. “The bus stops we have done and do, even now, are in a busy area that’s attached to a site.”
The highway superintendent explained that there are a number of reasons why the department does not plow bus stops.
He explained that the department doesn’t have the time or the man power to plow bus stops, especially in areas near the elementary schools where stops appear at almost every cross street.
“If we were to take on clearing the bus stops as part of the job, that’s a whole new endeavor,” said Wlodkowski. “You’d have to have a whole lot more contracted help than we have…We don’t have the structure in place to do these bus stops.”
The highway superintendent said that he suggests that parents to have their children stand on the side street against the snow bank.
“You don’t have a high volume of traffic,” said Wlodkowski. “I understand for parents that it’s not their preference, but when you have these rapid snow falls like we’ve had there’s no possible way we could keep up with the bus stops.”
Wlodkowski said most parents have been understanding once they know why.
He also noted that he believes parents seem more concerned about their child missing the bus than standing on the side street being unsafe.
“We tell the parents if your kids are standing by that adjacent driveway, if the bus driver can see them, the bus driver is going to stop,” said the highway superintendent. “The bus driver knows. They’re stopping there every day. They’re looking for the kids.”
Plowing school access walks is another concern that have sparked a number of parent complaints. Town Councilor and Public Works Committee member Chris Palmieri said that he received a lot of calls about the school access walk in front of DePaolo Middle School being unplowed.
“To be quite honest, I always believed it was on the Board of Ed’s side,” said Palmieri.
Wlodkowski explained that sometimes the school access walks take longer to be plowed, because the main roads have to be cleared first.
“It makes no sense to bring in the school access walk contractors if we’re still plowing,” said Wlodkowski. “When we cease plowing operations we call them, but if it’s like storms we’ve been having, you’re looking at six to eight hours maybe more to clear those access walks.”
When schools open after a snow storm, Wlodkowski says he makes sure they know that there’s a good chance that the access walks may not be done until the afternoon.
For the most part, the highway department has been receiving good feedback from residents.
“It’s a tough job anybody who’s never plowed snow needs to go out there and see what it really takes to plow a major storm,” said Public Works Committee Chair Paul Champagne.
The Southington Highway Maintenance Facility was also recently among 63 transportation facilities across the United States and Canada to be honored with the Safe and Sustainable Snowfighting award from non-profit trade association in winter road safety the Salt Institute.
The award recognizes facilities for “environmental consciousness and effective management in the storage of winter road salt,” according to a press release.