After the first snowstorm of the season, snow removal is in the spotlight in the largest city in western Massachusetts. People came to City Hall to complain and the mayor apologized.
Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno issued an apology for the city’s snow plowing during last week’s back-to-back storms where 19 inches of snow fell in about a 45-hour period.
The written statement from the mayor, which said “ we must and will be better prepared,” came about 24 hours after dozens of people came to a City Council meeting Monday night to voice their frustrations over streets they said were left impassable for days after the snow stopped falling.
" I am appalled at the way the DPW has done their job," said Gerry Reardon, who lives in the Upper Hill neighborhood.
He and other city residents brought with them to City Hall pictures and videos to document their complaints.
" What really got my blood boiling was seeing children falling walking home from school because they are walking in his narrow six-inch packed down ice," said Sean Donavan.
From December 3-4, the city’s 311 call center received more than 3,000 calls about snow plowing. That is roughly five times more calls than were fielded during a “Nor’easter” on March 13, 2018 and another big snowstorm last February 28th.
At Monday’s City Council hearing, the city’s DPW director Chris Cignoli strongly defended his department’s response to the storm.
" A lot of callers, obviously, state that their street was not plowed, no streets were missed," said Cignoli.
Still, he conceded all was not perfect. More than 700 cars were ticketed and 275 were towed for violating the parking ban, but Cignoli estimated that 2,000 additional cars could have been towed. Also, he said plows were late in returning to some streets where people had obeyed the alternate side parking rules leaving one side of those streets unplowed.
" I do know there are streets out there in bad condition," said Cignoli, who said it takes 12 hours to finish plowing every street in the city once the storm ends.
Anna Jewell of Seymour Ave. in the Pine Point neighborhood was incredulous hearing Cignoli report that after inspecting the streets, DPW supervisors had authorized the plowing sub-contractors to be paid.
"Before you pay out something let there be accountability, have a supervisor go and check if there is a complaint because this is our tax dollars," said Jewell.
Sarno, in his statement, said he had directed Cignoli to review street inspection procedures, step up enforcement of the parking ban, and be aggressive in managing plowing sub-contractors.
City Councilor Marcus Williams, who chaired Monday’s hearing, agreed that better adherence to the parking rules during snowstorms would help.
"Even on streets where no cars are parked because of drivways, the issue remains," said Williams.
A few years ago, Cignoli ask the City Council to set the fine for violating the parking ban at $100, but councilors voted to keep it at $50.
City Councilor Jesse Lederman suggested the city put on its website maps with the real time location of snow plows, as are shown on video monitors in the DPW’s Operations Center.