Waltham Mayor Jeannette McCarthy says she will implement a new, much simpler system to clear snow from the city’s roads.
McCarthy, who announced on Feb. 12 that she would not seek another term, told Waltham Patch she plans to impose a new system under which four private contractors would plow the city’s streets, instead of the current system, which has many contractors covering different sections of the city. City-owned trucks and crews operate mostly on city-owned land.
Also, McCarthy said she plans to switch to paying contractors on a per-inch basis instead of the current hourly rates. She said her new system would make supervision of contractors easier because the city would only oversee four instead of the 20-plus currently used.
"The system needs to be changed. I apologize to the citizens of Waltham for the mess,” McCarty said, referring to the snow that remained on city streets days after the storm. “I will take full responsibility for the screw-up of the storm.”
McCarthy prevously blamed private contractors for the mess.
The mayor’s comments came in the wake of several city councilors criticizing her response to the storm, including City Councilor Tom Stanley, who said he is considering running for mayor in the 2015 election.
"It's a planning and a management issue, specifically the lack of planning from the corner office,” Stanley said. "She makes virtually all the decisions in the city. She is a micromanager. One person does not know the best way to do everything."
According to Stanley, McCarthy has repeatedly not filled requests for additional snow removal equipment that could improve the city’s plowing efforts. He also said McCarthy has not filled Consolidated Public Works positions over the years leaving only a “handful” of city workers to help clear snow.
According to a copy of the 2013-2018 capital improvement plan, requests include a Bobcat, a Bobcat with a snow removal blade and a trackless tractor. All would be purchased in 2018, but the plan currently lacks funding. Stanley said the city’s Long-Term Debt Committee will discuss the issue soon.
When asked about the plan, McCarthy said she and Purchasing Agent Joseph Pedulla are assessing the condition of city-owned vehicles and will determine which ones will be surplused. McCarthy also said she would not consider making snow removal a completely in-house operation. McCarthy, however, said she would be willing to examine the cost of hiring new workers and equipment for such a system.
McCarthy said a prior mayor privatized the snow removal system to save the city money. That, she said, led to thinner CPW ranks and fewer workers to plow streets.
FUTURE STORM PLANS
With the storm over, City Councilor Ken Doucette said the city should focus on improving its response to future storms. Doucette said he visited several areas of the city on Monday, Feb. 11, and noticed they still were not clear. He said he was worried firefighters and police officers would not have been able to safely make it to some parts of the city. He also said he was concerned about children walking to school in the street because some sidewalks had not been cleared by Tuesday night.
"This does lay on the mayor and the CPW director," Doucette said.
The City Council plans to have Pedulla, McCarthy and CPW Director Michael Chiasson review the issues at its Tuesday, Feb. 19, meeting. Stanley has also asked for Chiasson to gather snowstorm response plan information from other towns and report back to the Council.