RUMFORD — Business districts top the Public Works priority list for snow removal.
Next comes Rumford Hospital, followed by churches, and then schools, the Virginia neighborhood, Cumberland Street area and other areas, such as Rumford Center, the Smith Crossing neighborhood on Route 108 and Strathglass Park, when needed.
That’s what selectmen learned Thursday night from Public Works Superintendent Andy Russell. Russell prefaced his report by handing out copies of the list.
“This details the order that we go in,” he said.
He was responding to board concerns raised at the Jan. 3 meeting, when selectmen plowed into snow removal issues.
The back page of the list details areas where the bucket loader is used to remove snow, like the traffic islands on Prospect and Rumford avenues; certain sidewalks and town parking lots, and Cumberland Street behind the VFW to Essex Avenue.
After these areas are done, Russell said the bucket loader operator then helps remove snow at other areas around town where safety issues exist.
Town Manager Carlo Puiia read aloud the two lists, quipping that he lives in the Virginia section, which is the fifth group.
“There are a lot of areas here that need snow removal, and it doesn’t happen all at once, but there is a method here,” he said.
“There is a formula we try to follow the best we can. Everyone has their concerns, and so do we.”
Even though the issue wasn’t on the agenda, Puiia then asked selectmen if they had any questions or concerns.
“I know on the form you have certain (priority) groups, but the last big snowstorm that we had, we did have school on, and my concern is I think that it would be really good to get the sidewalks going to the schools first,” Selectman Jeremy Volkernick said.
“The schools should be our No. 1 priority; then maybe the hospital.”
Russell said the crew did address that last week when working for three days on midnight snow removal down Hancock Street to the high school.
“It was completely filled,” Russell said of the sidewalk. “The kids couldn’t walk on the sidewalk so they’d walk in the road, and, of course, that’s Route 120.”
He said they moved that section up in the priority list specifically “to address that safety concern.”
Russell said the crew is aware of school areas of concern and does try to clear the snow there ahead of other priorities.
Schools are Group 4 on the list. The area includes York Street (Maine to Rumford avenues), Hancock Street (Strafford Avenue to Mountain Valley High School), Somerset Street (Porter Avenue East to Dead End), Porter Avenue East (Hancock to Somerset streets) and Tasker Avenue (Hancock to Somerset streets).
Volkernick then suggested tweaking the list to bump the schools group higher in priority.
“But I don’t know how the rest of the board members feel about that,” he said.
He suggested placing the topic on a future agenda for closer scrutiny.
“Because it was quite some time before they got to it,” Volkernick said. “I saw a lot of high school kids (and) I saw a lot of middle school kids walking in the middle of the road.”
Chairman Greg Buccina said he didn’t think the board should micromanage Russell’s department, especially where he’d shown the initiative to get the school routes cleared.
When asked if he could make the adjustment, Russell said he could.
“To Jeremy’s point, we recognize that it’s something they can improve on; you don’t need our permission,” Buccina said. “Fix it. Please do.”
When asked by Selectman Brad Adley, who assembled the priority list, Russell said it was developed in the 1960s and subsequently tweaked since then.