Auburn officials consider ‘tweaks’ to snowplowing plan

AUBURN — City officials say they’re willing to consider “tweaks” to their snowplowing plan following complaints about the city’s response to early-season storms.

Public Works Deputy Director Denis D’Auteuil said Saturday at a City Council workshop that the department has limited resources and tries to salt and plow as many roads as possible during a storm. But, he acknowledged, the one-year-old plowing plan could be improved.

D’Auteuil said he would take the council’s feedback and “look and see if there are any immediate changes we can make for this year.”

Interim City Manager Don Gerrish said he called the workshop to educate the four new councilors — Tizz Crowley, Mary LaFontaine, Joshua Shea and Leroy Walker Sr. — about the budget process. Gerrish also wanted to get each councilor to discuss expectations of each other and city staff for the coming year.

Ward 5 Councilor Leroy Walker called for the discussion on the city’s snow removal plan after learning recently that road crews responded too late to a late-December ice storm.

The snow removal plan, which was adopted last winter, sets different levels of service for different streets in the city based on traffic and other factors. Under the plan, higher-priority streets, such as Main, Court and Washington, get plowed up to four times as often as rural streets.

Sidewalks are also assigned priorities, depending on whether they are on a route to school or near a shopping center, among other factors.

During the four-hour workshop, which only one resident attended and no one from the public spoke, Walker disagreed with how the city assigned plowing priorities to streets. He said main streets shouldn’t be plowed five times to every one time others are plowed.

“I can’t accept as an excuse that because you put (a certain street) as a Priority 4 … that it would take eight hours to plow,” Walker said.

D’Auteuil said his department has only 20 trucks to cover roughly 500 miles of city streets. As such, he said the department has to prioritize. On Jan. 20, for example, he said some city sidewalks weren’t plowed until several hours after the storm had passed because crews were busy tending to roadways.

“As much as we would like to tackle streets and sidewalks at the same time, we can’t, with our resources,” he said.

Ward 4 Councilor David Young asked that some “neighborhood shortcuts” be assigned higher priority by the city. Ward 2 Councilor Robert Hayes suggested the city consider hiring contractors to clear rural roads. Councilors also discussed ways to make routes more efficient and to eliminate redundancies, such as bridges to Lewiston, which are also covered by crews from that city.

Gerrish said he expected some of the ideas would resurface, but he cautioned that the plan seemed to be working.

“We heard things that we might want to discuss this year,” he said, adding, “I don’t think you’ll see a major overhaul” of the plowing plan.

Gerrish also led a discussion on “Budget 101” for the board’s four new councilors, including a quick primer on a timeline for next year’s budget. City staff are already working on it, but it won’t be released until mid-March.

Gerrish noted that the city’s two highest expenditures in this year’s $31 million budget were employee salaries and benefits and debt service, at about $4.2 million and $7 million, respectively.

To date, he said this year’s budget “is in pretty good shape,” despite a miscalculation that led to a $165,000 cost overrun for the city’s retirement contribution for non-pension employees. That error will be offset by $200,000 in savings for the remainder of the fiscal year because health insurance rates increased less than expected.

After recent turmoil, councilors said they hoped the board would work together this year, respect one another and communicate face to face whenever possible. They asked the same from city staff.

“I hope that we will not think how we can be the squeaky wheel, but how we can work together as a body,” Mayor Jonathan LaBonte said.

The City Council will meet with the School Committee at 5:30 p.m. Monday at Auburn Hall for a joint workshop on school and city budgets. Officials could also bring up the possibility of a policy on storm-related delays at city schools.

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Randall Pond's picture

Auburn officials consider ‘tweaks’ to snowplowing plan

I have a Question for Public Works Deputy Director Denis D’Auteuil. What Drugs are you on or what are you Smoking, Dude? The Plan seemed to be working? Really? Seriously? Last year I was so scared to go out at night living over in New Auburn for fear of being hit by a car as they couldn't see me with the Mountain Snowbanks that were NEVER Removed in that area on ANY side streets and yet you say the plan worked relatively well? What Planet are you People on??

From what I've heard from friends that still live in Auburn, the roads are some better but, I seriously hope you people realize this idea that one street is more of a priority over another is NUTS!

So does that mean that people that live on a less priority road or street don't have to pay their taxes on time or not at all? Where would the city be if that happened?

I know you have limited man power but, I like the idea of sub-contracting the work out if it doesn't cost the city too much Money.

Maine does get snow and hopefully this winter will be nothing like last year's or the year before with a lot of snow.

In closing, Please think of people who walk everywhere they go and don't have a car and don't have kids in school. IE The Elderly! They to get around safely too on sidewalks that are well plowed.

Thank you

 's picture

I see that someone disagrees

I see that someone disagrees with my post. Could you please tell me what you disagree with so I may learn if my thoughts are faulty?

ALBERT CAMPOBASSL's picture

(Sidewalks are also assigned

(Sidewalks are also assigned priorities, depending on whether they are on a route to school.)

There is no school when we have a snow storm,so why cann't school
sidewalks wait?

How many times have you seen a sand truck go bye,only to see
a plow truck go bye five minutes later? or plow trucks
five minutes apart? maybe the drivers could tweet each other.
Wait I think that might be unlawfull.

 's picture

Better

I think that they did better on Winter St this last storm, as it seems to me that they went up and then came back down and then entered into Pettingill Park... I hope this will continue and I hope that we were one of those tweeks.

 's picture

They are considering tweaks??

They are considering tweaks?? The plowing routine needs to be overhauled. I live off of a main drag and my street gets plowed anywhere from 8 to 11 hours into the storm. People have to go to work to pay their taxes. Plowing street should get priority over sidewalks. Plowing streets needs to be funded before we buy any more Ipads for kindergartners!! I hope this council can get the priorities straight.

Also, when the snow turns wet and heavy, the trucks have to work harder and are more apt to break down from the abuse. Then the homeowner has to shovel the block of ice from the driveway. We pay a lot of taxes in Auburn and should not settle for half ass services!

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