Buried under by complaints about the plowing of city streets during a 19-inch snow storm in early December, officials in Springfield, Massachusetts have made changes and are contemplating more.
The Springfield Department of Public Works will pre-treat with snow and ice melting chemicals additional city streets, and more closely supervise the more than 100 subcontractors who make up the bulk of the city’s snowplowing workforce.
City Councilors meanwhile are discussing possible changes to the on-street parking rules during snowstorms.
A proposed ordinance that called for an alternate side of the street parking ban enforced by a 24-hour period was sent back to committee during Monday night’s council meeting. Currently when the city declares a snow emergency, parking is banned on the even-side of the street from 7 p.m.-7 a.m. and on the odd-side between 9 a.m. - 4 p.m.
City Councilor Marcus Williams, who chairs the Maintenance and Development Committee, said the parking rules are confusing.
"I think the parking ban is antiquated as it is currently," said Williams.
He said he wants to look at the winter parking rules in other municipalities and discuss possible changes with Springfield DPW officials before bringing a parking ban ordinance to the full Council for a final vote.
"My recommendation is to make sure the City Council does its due diligence...the last thing we want is to cause more confusion around snow removal practices," said Williams.
Following the snowstorm in early December, dozens of people showed up at a City Council hearing with complaints about snow plowing in their neighborhoods. The city’s 311 call center fielded 3,000 calls during the storm – about four-times the typical snowstorm call volume.
Mayor Domenic Sarno issued an apology and said the DPW would make operational changes.
City Councilor Kateri Walsh said the council should not drag its feet in responding to the complaints.
" You have to do something to respond to all these concerns from our constituents, " said Walsh, adding "There has to be a visible action by the City Council."
Springfield’s parking rules during snowstorms have not changed in decades, according to DPW Director Chris Cignoli, who noted there are other municipalities that ban on-street parking entirely when it snows.
"By far, the city of Springfield has the most liberal parking ban around," said Cignoli. " My preference would be that there be no on-street parking. Do I think that is a reality? I don't think so."
Cignoli said if some technological issues can be overcome, the DPW will share online for the public to see the map used in its operations center that displays the progress of snowplowing in the city.
In addition to possible changes in the on-street parking rules, Councilors next year are expected to consider a sidewalk snow removal ordinance that could see the city, in some instances, clear sidewalks of snow and then bill the property owner for the labor.