Despite complaints, city officials say plowing is progressing

When it comes to plowing city streets, officials think the process is getting better, but the complaints continue to roll in.

Mayor Willie Rosas remarked that he saw progress in plowing during the Christmas Day snowfall. DPW Director Randy Woodbury reported the streets division is giving all it can.

“We get a lot of complaints and some compliments. Most people realize this is usual. We’ve gotten a lucky break the past couple years. We didn’t have the plows on the trucks until Dec. 21 last year. Compare that to this year, and we’re not quite as lucky. We shouldn’t expect to be lucky; what we’re getting is normal. … Our snow plow operators gave you everything they possible had. Are the new guys still learning? Yeah. Are they just as enthusiastic as the veterans? Yeah. You can’t ask for more. Are we going to get better? Yeah, but what you got was every ounce of commitment of people who love the city of Dunkirk. … Do we all want to do better? My feeling and observation is yes,” Woodbury said.

DPW Committee Chair First Ward Councilman Don Williams Jr., received his share of complaints on the subject and did some research prior to the meeting.

He provided a study that proposed measuring outcomes with level-of-service goals that would be set by officials and the community.

“Sometimes when the snow comes down, you can’t keep the road bare 24/7,” Williams said from experience, “but where I agree with some of the calls I got over the weekend and on Christmas day is when we have 4 to 6 inches on the road and nobody’s out.”

Williams noted if a standard is set and the community knows what to expect, he predicts there will be fewer complaints. He added he would like to see the goals be to maintain roads as safe as possible throughout a storm and to provide bare pavement conditions as soon as possible after.

Streets Supervisor Mike Porpiglia explained the streets division is borrowing four workers from other Department of Public Works divisions for a total of 14 workers operating four plows, heavy equipment and salters.

He said those four plows, with two operators per truck, each take a ward. The time it takes to plow the 55 to 60 lane miles in a ward is around six hours, accounting for slowing factors like intersections, parked vehicles, illegally parked vehicles, narrow roads and dead ends.

“If you’re experiencing a storm of any magnitude, six hours of time, of course there’s going to be snow on that road again. We try to keep the guys out there as much as we can, as long as we can,” he said, noting with required break time, the roads are being plowed twice in a 24-hour period.

In addition, Porpiglia noted priorities given to main routes and emergency vehicles, which can also affect plowing routes and turn-around times.

Williams mentioned the benefits of a V-sander on the back of a plow and Woodbury said he is looking into it.

Williams asked what can be done to reduce the time. Porpiglia said since the city invested in three new plows several years ago, it is not an equipment problem, but one of manpower.

“Sometimes the best way to be more efficient is to hire more people,” Williams said.

Residents complained of snow on the sidewalk in the Central Avenue business district and around the senior center. Rosas said the city was already aware of the issues downtown and has a plan to remove the snow.

An investigation found the snow on the sidewalk around the senior center was put there by a private plow operator. The city asks all residents and private plow operators in the city to assist them by not plowing snow onto the sidewalks and also clearing snow buildup from the sides of driveways so that the sidewalk plow could pass through.

The priority for sidewalk plowing in order is students’ routes to school, the business district, then residential areas. Residents are asked to help by clearing their sidewalks.