AUBURN — Following the recent spate of snowstorms that dropped 45 inches in just over a week, Auburn officials discussed plowing complaints.

Dan Goyette, director of Auburn Public Services, talked about his department’s recent difficulties during an Auburn City Council workshop Monday.

Most of the complaints received by Goyette’s staff centered on sidewalk cleanup. Goyette said three of the department’s four sidewalk tractors broke down in the span of Feb. 7-15, when the city saw five storms. Two tractors suffered broken clutches and one rolled over.

Goyette said the city has 24 plow routes and 24 vehicles. Employees only begin sidewalk plowing once they finish their plow routes. 

“We have no extra vehicles or people,” he said. “You can see where if there’s any sort of problem during a storm, things stack up and get behind. This is also true of sidewalks.” 

Councilors discussed the city’s snow and ice control plan, which prioritizes streets in a scale of one through four. Center Street, for instance, is priority one, which gets plowed every two hours. 

A handful of councilors said they had received complaints. Councilor Leroy Walker said most he heard were over sidewalks. 

“My concern is we don’t have a Plan B,” he said, adding that he was surprised the council was never asked to take action on the three broken sidewalk tractors.

Regardless, he said, “With the amount of snow that came down, (Auburn staff) were working their tails off.” 

Goyette said Auburn has 46 miles of sidewalks, which are also broken down into priority one and two. He said so far, Auburn has seen 20 storms this year, dropping 89.5 inches. He said the city budget’s based on 20 storms. 

The city is back down to one sidewalk plow again, even after the brief winter respite, he said. 

“We’re lucky it’s not snowing right now,” Goyette said. 

The Public Services Department is overbudget for the year by between $50,000 and $60,000.

Mayor Jonathan LaBonte asked whether the city would be able to implement GIS technology in its plow trucks, which would allow people to find where a plow is on its route, as well as the status of the sidewalk plowing. 

“I’d be curious about the price point,” he said, adding that more municipalities are getting real-time information out to the public.  

Councilor Grady Burns said his biggest concern is for having an emergency contingency, especially if a truck breaks down.

Councilor Andrew Titus said the sidewalk tractor breakdowns were particularly alarming, and asked about their level of regular maintenance. 

Goyette said the sidewalk tractors for plowing are also used for mowing. He said Public Services has requested additional sidewalk tractors for the past three years but was denied. 

He said the department has some new plow operators. 

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