Winter impacts on Town of Lancaster
By Lee Chowaniec
Mar 1, 2011, 10:40
Like everyone else during this long and arduous winter, the Town of Lancaster is also experiencing the adverse impacts from this past winter and is doing whatever it takes to manage the situation.
“Sidewalk policing is one of the most difficult things we do,” declares Supervisor Robert Giza. “Some people want to clear their sidewalks and some people don’t. It’s a difficult balancing act to manage the snow removal ordinance with the accumulation of snow we have had and considering the continuous snowfall; especially when plows come by and redistribute the snow. Then throw in the fact that people are vacationing elsewhere over the winter. How do you fine someone that is gone and doesn’t even know it’s snowing and his sidewalk needs clearing? But the law pertains to everyone, just like paying taxes.”
Supervisor Giza went on to give several scenarios exemplifying the difficulties in managing the policy: people at work during a heavy snowfall, away for a few days, senior citizens unable to keep up, neighbors who dislike their neighbors and call to complain for no reason, etc.
It was noted that residents have 72 hours to clear sidewalks before being cited (receiving a summons). Building Inspector Jeff Simme noted it was a catch 22 situation. “If we go out and enforce the ordinance we get people complaining and if we don’t go out and enforce the law we get people complaining as well. We have issued 160 citations and these were not issued without just cause, where it was easy to see sidewalks where no attempt had been made to clear them from day one. We even backed off doing any enforcing during the big December storm.”
Discussion then took place on the liability involved in volunteerism, costs of implementing measures to clear walkways that are not cleared and whatever happened to the day where good neighbors helped other neighbors in time of need.
Like discussion recently took place at a Lancaster Central School District (LCSD) budget work session regarding the feasibility of cutting back on bus service to cut spending. The risk of having a child walk in the street because of snow laden sidewalks and get hit by a vehicle heavily outweighed the cost of busing.
Deputy Highway Superintendent addresses board on costs of snow removal
Supervisor Giza lamented on the constant snowfall and the impact the harsh winter was having on the highway budget. The highway department has been besieged by calls, even over weekends but at no time was the town in danger of losing control. “Businesses didn’t have to close and everyone got to work and back home. Supervisors in other towns express like issues and concerns about the salt usage and the ever increasing cost of gas.”
Supervisor Giza also spoke on the difficulty of clearing out cul-de-sacs and readying them for the next snow event.” If you don’t have time in between snow events to clear them out, there is a whole lot of trouble.”
At this time Deputy Highway Superintendent Lou Cacciotti spoke to the board and informed them on what has transpired in his department over the winter. “At this time, we have been out salting 86 times and plowing 54 times. Last year at this time the numbers were 53 and 42,” remarked Cacciotti. “We are at about 100% of our allotted salt usage for the year and we are not done yet. If we need any more salt it will cost us $48 a ton instead of $40 to purchase it, so we are doing what we can to prevent that from happening.”
Supervisor Giza declared it was one of the longest and harshest winters in years and the extra runs were necessary to prevent accidents. He spoke on the need to repair/replace snow removal equipment and the difficulties involved at budget time to fund for future uncertainties. “I have already spoken to Highway Superintendent Dan Amatura on the need for another plow for next year. If for whatever reason we don’t plow the roads we get criticized. If we don’t have a hard winter and plows sit around we get criticized for spending money on equipment.”
Councilman Mark Aquino interjected that the town did put in $1 million dollars into the budget for a “bunch of stuff” and the board was criticized for that. “But in retrospect we did the right thing.”
Cacciotti then interjected that many times people look around and see snow building up on town roads and wonder where the plows are. “It’s takes 4 to 4-1/2 hours for an average run. That’s on a decent day. During a storm, and especially with heavy traffic, it could be as much as 7 hours. So when people call you and tell you we are not out there, we are out there.”
It should also be noted that the town plows 150 lane miles of road. The county also plows roads in Lancaster. The county plows Schwartz, Townline, Pavement, Bowen and other roads. The town receives calls from homeowners living on these roads criticizing them for poor plowing.
The highway department is on call 24-7 and often responds to calls from police and emergency services when they believe travel on roads has become hazardous and require salting or plowing.
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