FARMINGTON — Public works crews in the region are tired but doing their best to keep up with snowplowing and removal as overtime hours add up.  

Regional School Unit 9 and RSU 73, in the Farmington and Jay areas, respectively, and SAD 58 in the Kingfield area are also feeling the pinch with six snow days already on the books. 

“The crew is exhausted,” said John Johnson, director of Jay Public Works. “The overtime allotment (275 hours per crew member) is running a bit low, pushing most snow removal to normal work hours, which slows the process dealing with daytime traffic.”

Johnson said after they clean up Wednesday’s storm, they will try to push back snow at intersections all over town and start hauling snow from in-town next week. Sand and salt supplies will be OK, if winter slows down, he said.

On the bright side, community members are dropping off pots of chicken soup and chili, finger rolls, cookies, candy and coffee, Johnson said. Other public works crews are getting the same treatment.

In Farmington, sand supplies are quickly diminishing, but the town was able to stockpile an extra 2,000 cubic yards in the fall to prepare for this circumstance, said Philip Hutchins, director of Public Works.

“We have been pushing 24-hour operations due to trying to keep up with removing snow from our downtown parking spaces and parking lots,” he said. “We have also hired multiple trucks and Bruce A. Manzer’s equipment to help out. I have to send the crew home for a few hours because I feel it’s unsafe for us to work more than a 30-hour shift. And, to say goodnight to their families, not knowing when they will be back to clean their personal dooryards.

“Tension and stress have been at a minimum because we are facing a goal together and working as a team, trying to keep our roadways safe for the public to travel on.”

There have also been numerous breakdowns, including sidewalk machines and a grader used to widen roads, Hutchins said. 

Hutchins and other public works directors ask people not to push snow across the roadways.

“This is dangerous for our plow truck drivers,” Hutchins said. “It’s like hitting a wall and this is also shrinking our roadways tremendously.” 

State law prohibits placing snow or slush on a public way and allowing it to stay there if it has not accumulated there naturally. 

Plow drivers are doing their best to avoid mailboxes, but the pressure of the snow coming off the wings are breaking many, Hutchins said. He asked people to clear snow away from mailboxes so drivers can see where they are and try to avoid them.

Joe Roach, director of Rangeley Public Services, said his crew is doing very well keeping up with the snow. The crew went in at 2 a.m. Tuesday to clean up Main Street.

“They really are working hard,” he said. “The crew is doing an excellent job, and they pay attention to details” Roach said. “They take pride in what they do.”  

Rangeley had used 2,000 yards of sand as of Wednesday and has 2,000 yards left.

“We will safely make it through the winter,” Roach said. He said he still has enough money in his budget to buy two more loads of salt, which he expects will get them through the middle of March.

Roach budgeted $20,000 for 150 hours of overtime per crew member. He estimated that 35 to 40 percent of it has been used.

As for the impact of the storms on schools, RSU 9 Superintendent Tom Ward, SAD 58 Superintendent Susan Pratt and RSU 73 Superintendent Kenneth Healey all said the six snow days would be added to the end of the school year.

Graduation dates of June 9 for Mt. Abram High School in Salem Township, and June 11 for Mt. Blue and Spruce Mountain high schools, in Farmington and Jay respectively, are still in place.

“I am not considering a graduation change at this time, but if we have many more storm days, we may need to,” Pratt said. 

The superintendents said they will look at all options to make up time, if needed. Those options include a waiver of the 175-day student attendance requirement, lengthening school one hour a day for a period to make up the days beyond five and trading a workshop day for a student day.

Discussions will be held with school boards, various employment groups and in some cases, the state education commissioner.

Healey said that no matter how many snow days are used, the graduation ceremony will be held June 11. 

Staff Editor Barry Matulaitis contributed to this story.

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Roads and driveways became narrower and snowbanks got higher as people shoveled out during a snowstorm Wednesday into Thursday of last week. A chipmunk, at right, keeps to a woodpile in Livermore Falls.

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