Smaller plowing staff could mean rough winter for Lewiston streets

LEWISTON — A smaller Public Works staff could lead to delays in clearing snow from city streets this winter.

City councilors heard a report Tuesday from Highway Division Operations Manager John Elie about the city's strategy for plowing roads this winter.

A heavy winter could hit city streets hard, Elie said.

"The biggest problem we are going to have this year is B-team coverage," Elie told councilors. "When we have a really long storm, we are going to have to park equipment. People sometimes wonder, 'Hey, where's my plow?' Well, it's parked."

Snowplow and sanding crews work in two 16-hour shifts during storms, an A shift and a B shift. Those crews are tasked with clearing snow and spreading sand on 394 lane miles.

The A shift goes first, using 34 pieces of equipment — plows, sanding trucks, sidewalk plows and loaders — to clear snow and sand 22 routes and four sidewalk plow routes across the city.

The B shift takes over after 16 hours, but Elie said the city does not have as many people working the B shift. That means that 15 pieces of equipment — nine plows, one road sander, one pit loader and four sidewalk plows — are parked while the B shift is on duty.

The remaining B shift crews and equipment do their best to cover the city, but it's a struggle.

"The result is that the streets these units are responsible for won't get plowed until at least several hours later than usual," he said. "Some streets they are responsible for might not even get plowed until the next day."

The smaller Public Works staff is because of employees who quit or retired over the past several years and were not replaced. Staff warned of similar issues last year, too, he said.

Last winter, the city had 10 plowable winter storms that were over quickly. The average winter has 13 plowable storms with twice as much snow. Forecasters are predicting a stormier winter this year, he said.

"If the winter is at least average, or worse, we will be parking units," Elie said. "Some of the things we predicted last year may actually come true if we have a hard winter."

staylor@sunjournal.com

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Comments

Randall Pond's picture

Question to the Director

Will you be doing a better of clearing Snowbanks this year than you were in past years? I lived on Pine Street 3 winters ago and the snowbanks got so high I was scared to drive in the city! I hope that doesn't happen this year and the area doesn't see a lot of snow like last year.

Hire..

What is the problem here....hire some more people.. Lewiston streets are bad enough as it is with the patches all over the road. I am sure that there are enough people out of work to fill these positions...or is it because they don't want to hire anyone to replace the ones that left??? Piss poor management I would say..I'm sure the taxes haven't gone down any for Lewiston residents who are getting not much for the money they pay in..I for one would like to know why these positions were not filled???? Any answers??

 's picture

The problem

I am Lewiston's Public Works Director. The City Council has done a good job of keeping property taxes low and part of that was eliminating contractors hired to plow roads and also some staff reductions. We have 2 shifts to address winter storms. The first shift works for up to 16 hours from the start of the storm. For small storms, this may be all that is needed or there may be only some clean-up required after the 16 hours. Once we reach 16 hours, we need to send these folks home to get some rest. This is for their safety and that of the general public. At that point the 2nd shift comes in. The City budget doesn't provide funding to fully man all the snow fighting equipment we have on the 1st shift. We will have 2 sand/salt units, 7 combination sand/salt/plow units and 10 plow units on the roads during the 2nd shift. There will be 10 plow units, 1 sander and 4 sidewalk plows that will be parked during the 2nd shift because we do not have the personnel to operate them. The job of the 2nd shift for long storms is to keep our arterial and collector streets clear to maintain some mobility until the 1st shift operators can get some rest and then come back in to help finish up the end of the storm. We are confident this will work, but for long duration storms we expect there will be some streets that will not get the attention some have come to expect.

 's picture

The problem...

Quite frankly, the answer comes off sounding like a public relations 101 draft. Several storms last year were a bear to get up and down major streets (Sabattus, Russell, East Ave all come to mind) as 2-3 inches of snow had accumulated before plow was put to pavement. I pay my fair share of property tax in Lewiston. It irks me to no end that the current administrator continues throw common sense out the window when it comes to trying to save a buck.

There are three things I expect out of my taxes:

1) Decent schools
2) Decent roads
3) A safe city to live in.

I think LPD is making great efforts at keeping #3 viable. I do not see similar effort with LPW on #2.

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