Updated at 9:30 a.m. Friday: Greenfield's Divison of Public Works finished up its snow operations at approximately 8 p.m. last night and resumed operations at 4 a.m. this morning to get things ready for morning rush hour.
Original story: At 3:45 p.m. Wednesday afternoon, the is as silent as a cemetery.
With the exception of Superintendent Dan Ewert and a local reporter, no one remains in the building that just minutes ago was bustling with action.
But sitting in the spacious attached garage are more than a dozen massive trucks equipped, most equipped with plow blades and loaded down with salt, ready to spring into action Mother Nature decides to blanket the city with its first substantial snowfall of 2012.
“We plan on getting the snow off the street as quickly as we can,” Ewert said.
The city has seven trucks – six for city streets and one for parking lots and alleys –that go out for every salting, an operation that takes each driver at least 3 hours to complete, according to Ewert. Trucks salt when there is less than 2 inches of snow on the ground.
During larger snowfalls, with accumulation greater than 2 inches, the city switches over to what is called an all-plow operation. The DPW sends out 14 plow drivers who are assigned a single plow route that takes up to 8 hours to complete.
In addition, two end loaders are sent out to clear cul-de-sacs and dead-end streets.
Ewert said he has never seen a winter like this in his 18 years with the department, but assured citizens that DPW workers have remained busy trimming trees, removing hazardous trees, cleaning sewers and catch basins, painting and performing other building maintenance.
The lack of snow has had a positive impact on the department’s bottom line so far. Ewert estimates the department spent $25,000 in overtime in December 2010 for plowing efforts; in 2011, it was closer to $2,500.
“We’ve been out once,” this winter, Ewert said. “It’s a big difference. But it can change one month to another. If we get socked in February and it just keeps snowing, and we’re out all the time, we eat that up again.”
Ewert had several tips for residents that, if followed, ensure all-plows go as quickly and smoothly as possible.
- Follow the city’s night parking restrictions and be sure to park on only one side of the street during the day so plows can get through. After you see a city plow go by, move your car to the other side of the street so the driver can clear the other side.
- Allow city plows at least two passes in front of your house before you shovel the front of your driveway. Doing so keeps you from having to shovel plowed snow multiple times. And never throw plowed snow at the end of your driveway or on sidewalks back into the street.
- Drive for conditions around plows and give the city time to clear the street before you clutter it with parked cars.
It’s also important that residents remain patient.
“People need to understand it takes some time,” Ewert said. “Snow plowing is like a book; there’s a beginning, a middle and an end. You might not like where you are in the book, but our guys are working diligently.
During the heaviest of snowfalls, , Ewert said his department’s chief goal is to “break the roads open” so there’s a way in and a way out.
“We’re not going to clean up all the way to the curb; we’ll come back to do that after the snow stops,” he said. “What we do is try to keep the roads open, mainly so police and fire can get through. That’s the number one thing.”