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Waltham City Council Airs Questions On Recent Snow Clearing Operations

Many councilors concerned about city's snow- clearing abilities.

The , during its Monday, Feb. 7 meeting, expressed serious concerns over the city’s recent snow clearing operations, to which Consolidated Public Works Director John Tashjian responded. Below are highlights of the more than two-hour meeting.

  • Snow Removal By The Numbers, according to Tashjian.

 -Waltham has 20 city-owned pieces of snow clearing equipment and contracts 125 privately-owned pieces. Tashjian said he believes he has enough staff and equipment.

 -Two sidewalk snow clearing pieces of equipment  are currently broken down.

  • How The City Approaches Snow Clearing And Closing Schools During Storms

 -Tashjian and several others in the CPW collectively run overall snow operations, according to Tashjian.  

-A foreman is in charge of clearing sidewalks of snow, according to Tahsjian.

-Private contractors are told to plow curb-to-curb, according to Tashjian.

-Removing snow from Main and Moody Streets is always a priority because of businesses, however, the CPW focuses on school bus and walking routes first, according to Tashjian.

-The city has tried to hire additional contractors to clear sidewalks, but often cannot find any companies to perform the work, according to Tashjian. The city often hires a contractor for one year, only to lose them the next year, Tashjian said.

-As part of the decision to close or delay the opening of schools, Tashjian said he consults with the interim Superintendent of Schools Anne Marie Carr-Reardon to decide whether the sidewalks are in good enough condition to safely allow students to walk to school. Carr-Reardon, in a letter to parents, has said she consults with Tashjian, other area school superintendents while checking weather reports and consults with the district’s safety officer Ann Frassica, before making a decision on whether to closing or delay the opening of school. To date, school has been closed six days.

  • Councilors’ Snow-Clearing Concerns

-City Council President Paul Brasco saw, during a recent storm, that Mount Feake Cemetery’s roads were clear, a day after the storm, but not many of the city’s regular roads. “Our residents should be cared for as Mount Feake was,” Brasco said.

-Brasco also said he was concerned that many roads had not been cleared from curb-to-curb, which made many streets one lane. Tashjian responded saying, “Having large storms back to back and having cold weather … that’s what’s exacerbated this problem.”

-City Councilor Thomas Curtin expressed concerns on the city’s dumping snow behind the former Lawrence School on Trapelo Road. He said he had asked to put a stop to dumping snow at the school, which was conveyed to Tashjian. Tashjian said he never received the e-mail, but would speak to the mayor soon.

-Curtin also said he was worried about potential flooding once the snow melts. Tashjian responded saying the snow would melt slowly and therefore it should not be a concern. “We will monitor it and keep an eye on it,” Tashjian said of the snow pile.

-Curtin also expressed concern that no single individual oversaw snow clearing operations. “That seems to be one of the paramount problems.” Tashjian did not respond to that concern.

-Pickup trucks plowing streets also caused a rift. Curtin said pickup trucks were not heavy enough to properly clear all of the snow from the roads.

-Preparation for larger storms also became an issue. City Councilor Edmund Tarallo said he was worried about the lack of a contingency plan to deal with larger storms. Tashjian said the CPW needs to change the ratio of equipment to address larger storms, that would however, drive the cost per inch of clearing snow.

  • Tashjian’s Comments on his Department’s Overall Performance

-Tashjian: “It’s been a very unusual and extreme winter season.”

-Tashjian, after Brasco expressed concern about a parking ban affecting Moody Street businesses, said: “We’re trying to please everybody, the responsibility is to get the streets widened [for public safety vehicles to safely travel].”

  • Changes For Snow Clearing Operation

-At the request of Tarallo, Tashjian said he would post a list of streets detailing the order in which they are cleared.

-Tashjian said he is working on hiring additional contractors to focus on clearing sidewalks.

Chris Morgan February 11, 2011 at 09:34 PM
Side streets were plowed poorly. They are now narrowed to the point where 2 cars cannot pass each other-1 must pull in to a space to let the other one go. Sidewalks are also bad-there should have been penalties imposed on businesses and residents regarding not shoveling their walks. In order to get anywhere walking, one must walk in the street, and risk being hit by a car or truck. I live on Myrtle, near the Whittemore, and everyone on my block shovels down to the pavement after each storm. It is only common courtesy. We care about the kids going to school. No one else seems to care, witness all of the unshoveled sidewalks. Waltham should be ashamed.
Ryan Grannan-Doll (Editor) February 11, 2011 at 10:28 PM
Hi Chris, Thanks for visiting the site. Newton is discussing imposing a snow shoveling law require residents to shovel the walkways outside of their home. Is this something you or other residents want to see?
Chas O'Neill February 12, 2011 at 01:31 PM
It is amazing to me how readily taxpayers everywhere criticize municipal governments for failing to clear snow or provide other services to the point of perfection. If we had infinite resources, we could all do an infinitely good job at every task we perform in daily life. I am just as critical of failure and incompetence as anyone I know, but I must say that I think the Waltham public works department has done a fine job with their snow clearing operations, especially given the volume of snow and equipment and budget constraints. My work requires me to drive through other towns and cities in our area and in my experience we've been far better served here. Try driving through some of the side streets of Watertown or Arlington, for example; now, in those communities I can see reasons for complaints. But here in Waltham? I don't think so.
Chas O'Neill February 12, 2011 at 01:34 PM
I agree with Chris Morgan's comment about fines for businesses and residents who do not shovel their walks. It is indeed a matter of common courtesy, and common sense.
Kristine Conti Fusco March 01, 2011 at 04:39 AM
What Waltham needs is someone in DPW that actually rides around the city the day after a snow storm to scrutinize how well the city and the subcontractors have done and to penalize them for areas not properly plowed or streets forgotten about because there are plenty of streets in the city not always done! For some reason, the DPW seems to think that anyone that lives on a Private Way doesn't deserve to have their road plowed. People who live on private ways pay just as much on taxes as the people who live on a public way. I'm not asking for these people that are hired to do the snow job to get out and shovel a spot they have missed. I'm just asking for them just to take responsibility and pride in their jobs and as Nike said, "Just Do It."
Matt Carter March 01, 2011 at 06:27 PM
Private Ways are not the Responsibility of the DPW. Private Ways under State Law are needed to be plowed by Private Contractors hired by the residents.
Bill Riley February 10, 2013 at 10:25 PM
In my 26 years in Waltham, I don't think I have ever seen a worse job plowing snow than this "Blizzard". All you have to do is go outside Waltham to measure it. Even a remote area in Wilmington where I work had EVERY side street down to pavement by Sunday. Crescent St., Main St, prospect St. Moody St. A Quagmire. Disgraceful.

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