Milford, Orange dealing with storm costs

Departments of Public Works throughout Connecticut worked around the clock as March pummeled the State with four Nor’easter storms in four weeks.

Dozens of closed schools, thousands without power and many inches of snow have made March of 2018 one to remember. Snow-weary Connecticut braced itself yet again on the first full day of spring, but the state avoided the storm’s full impact.

“Milford’s Department of Public Works (DPW) has done an outstanding job over the course of this past winter season to quickly clear our streets,” said Milford Mayor Ben Blake. “While the last few Nor’easters have been less significant than forecast, our crews have capably addressed the work.”

The last storm, “was kind of like waiting for paint to dry,” said Chris Saley, Milford Director of Public Works. “It didn’t really materialize, we kept guys over waiting because we thought it was going to and finally sent them home when it looked like nothing was going to happen, and then it started snowing like crazy three hours later. So it was a long day for everybody at Public Works, they did a great job, we were lucky the weather was nice — this time of year the snow melts fairly quickly, it’s been a challenging month. We thought once we hit March we were in a good position but four Nor’easters in a very short period of time was amazing. I don’t think it’s ever happened before.”

“The last storm fortunately was a bust, it was a piece of cake for us,” said Don Foyer, Highway Crew Chief in Orange. “We salted the main roads and the rest just melted. We have eight large and four medium sized trucks with plows and salters and about 15 employees and seven contractors on call. We are responsible for 110 miles in Orange, one truck is designated to all the parking lots (approximately 7-8 lots - the schools plows their own lots, but we salt for them), Town Hall, Community Center, Fire & Police Departments. We don’t pre-treat here, we put the material down as soon as it starts to snow and find it’s just as good as pre-treating. We’ve had enough, we’ve been out 13 times as a full crew this winter,” he laughed. “We certainly hope that it’s over for this year.”

“We typically have 21 routes in Milford,” continued Saley. “And we have some fill-ins that help with the bigger routes, with parking lots and shoveling sidewalks. We have anywhere between 25-35 employees working at any given time between the garage to repair equipment and all. We have contractors (6-8) on call that we bring in but we wait until the snow hits the ground. Every storm is different, in the springtime it’s a totally different process than in the winter because of the angle of the sun and the asphalt is usually warmer so you don’t have the same bonding you typically have in January and February. If it is going to be a 10 degree day, we pre-treat, but on a warmer day, we wait to see if it’s melting once it hits the ground.”

When asked the top three ways in which the community can help during storms Saley said, “Don’t park in the street, be aware of the snowplows and the blind spots, and be cautious. And I’ll say three times,” he laughed, “Don’t park in the street, don’t park in the street and don’t park in the street!”

Budgets also were affected with frequent storms in the short time frame. “Milford, like most Connecticut towns, relies on the state’s annual Town Aid Road Grant to help fund plowing operations,” said Blake. “This year, the second half of the grant ($300,000 remains for Milford) has not been distributed to municipalities and is in jeopardy of rescission.”

Saley added, “We went past our salt allowance a while ago, but we have a reserve and we go into that and we have an overtime reserve too, it all works out. There are good years and there are bad years, this started out as a bad year and then January and February were a little bit on the lighter side and then March was bad.”