City tries to deal with large snowfall

Any way you look at it, and everywhere you look, it’s about snow.

The city of Dunkirk and its roads have not escaped winter’s wrath, and many motorists are wondering what is going on with the city’s snowplowing efforts.

The first big blast occurred in December, and Mayor Anthony J. Dolce said the Department of Public Works did its best with the manpower it has available. He was asked about the decision-making process regarding sending out the plows.

“It starts with our streets supervisor (Mike) Porpiglia; he keeps the closest eye on the weather forecast. He makes the first call,” Dolce replied. “If he’s not available then (DPW Director Tony Gugino) and then myself. The Police Department is involved, they’re always patrolling the roads so if they see something sooner than we can get to it, they call it in. They’re calling Mike and Tony and saying we’ve got some icy spots, can you get some guys out there?

“We’ll make the calls, Mike makes the calls or Tony, and we get them out there.”

Getting them out there means calling on the small number of personnel the DPW has available. Dolce was asked if the department is at a historic low level of personnel.

“Most definitely, they’ve taken significant hits over the last while. We have maintained our level since I came into office. There was one retirement since then and I filled it, but the money’s not there to really add to the department,” he replied. “A lot of calls about the snow removal were, ‘I don’t remember it being this bad.’ True, because we don’t have the amount of personnel we had before so things take longer, that’s the tradeoff.

“It’s also important to keep in mind it was a storm, so it wasn’t a regular snowfall.”

Dolce said there were things to improve on, but every piece of equipment was out.

Gugino recently explained the department’s operations to council. He said weather forecasts and alerts are used and added when alerts come in the city can sit back and “watch the pennies and not react until the snow is on the ground … or you can be proactive.”

He added proactivity is the most common sense approach and most cost efficient, citing the need for public safety and protecting the city from liability.

Gugino explained main streets are taken care of first, with side streets second. In addition, the city gets reimbursed from the state for taking care of Route 5, and Route 60 from Doughty to Fifth Street, along with a reimbursement from the county for taking care of all county roads within the city.

Gugino told council it takes 13 people to man all the DPW’s snow removal equipment at the same time. With six workers assigned to garbage or recycling pickup, that leaves seven or eight other workers to man the plows. Gugino added when Dolce suggested canceling recycling pickup recently it was the proper response.

Dolce was asked about hiring part-time workers for plowing, something Erie County has looked at doing.

“It’s something we’d have to negotiate or at least discuss and have them sign off on, something of that nature. I did see that story but the first thought that crossed my mind was equipment,” he replied. “Did they have extra equipment where they could do that? We had every piece of equipment out. The one difference would be possibly the sidewalk plow. That was sporadic so maybe if we had that ability we could call someone in for that purpose only.”

Dolce was asked Thursday about the current snowfall and the city’s equipment.

“We’re evaluating and re-evaluating our fleet. We’ve had numerous storms throughout the last month and at some point we have had equipment down, which has caused some delay in the snow removal. Other than that, every piece of equipment and manpower is out there,” he replied. “We keep talking, we’re in constant communication and looking for ways to improve. Things are definitely moving as best we can.”

Dolce said there weren’t as many complaints with the most recent storms.

“I think for the most part the public is understanding, they see that we’re out there,” he added. “It’s a lot of snow, we can’t keep up with it as best as we’d like.”

There are likely a lot of residents saying the same thing about keeping up with the snow on their driveways and sidewalks.

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