Letter to the Editor: Snow removal rapped, defended

Last Thursday I went to pay my property tax at the Middlebury town offices. I had to park by the Post Office so I had the opportunity to walk the entire length of downtown Middlebury. The sidewalks were plowed, but entirely covered with hard packed snow with mounds of snow lining Main Street making for a dangerous walking situation unless you were wearing ice grippers on your boots. I walked past Autumn Gold Jewelry. Across the street on the second floor was the apartment I lived in from 1972-73.
I remember that after a snowstorm back then, road crews would appear at night to clean up downtown. The crews would scrape the sidewalks clean and plow the snow into a huge pile at the junction of Merchants Row and Main Street. Then a large bucket loader would scoop the fresh snow up and dump it over the bridge into Otter Creek. It took about five hours to do. I know because I was kept awake by the loud machines from 1 a.m. to 6 a.m. But by morning all of downtown Middlebury would be completely clear, friendly now for walking and businesses.
I realize that Federal law prohibits this kind of action because of possible pollution in the snow from the roads. I wish this had been left up to the state to decide. It seems reasonable to conclude that if water always flows down hill and snow left on the streets will end up in Otter Creek anyway, why delay the inevitable while creating a dangerous walking situation and impeding downtown businesses? Just wondering.
Robert Deeble
Editor’s note: We asked Middlebury town officials if they would like to answer Mr. Deeble’s question, and here’s their response, which was sent Monday afternoon:
I would like to take this opportunity to thank the residents and business owners of the town of Middlebury for their patience and understanding in regards to the recent snow event that occurred on March 14 and 15. I am told that this storm ranked No. 2 out of the top 10 snowfall events in Middlebury, which is evident given the amount of snow that remains to be cleaned up in the downtown area on Monday afternoon. This event did not come without hardships and inconveniences but our highway crew worked tirelessly around the clock to keep the roads passable and safe.
Starting early in the morning on the 14th, the road crew worked very long hours, well into the night before taking a break to rest and check on the wellbeing of their families and homes. Following this short break, they were right back at it for an additional eight hours and then came back again well before daylight on Thursday to continue the cleanup.
Even with the concerted effort above there were many areas that were still impacted as of Friday morning. Many places around town do not lend themselves to snow removal, especially during a storm of this magnitude. Unfortunately, the only course of action for these places is to let the snow pile up until the storm is over, major routes are opened up and cleanup efforts can begin.
The road crew also dealt with several challenges of their own, making the job even harder. These included staff shortages, parked cars, equipment breakdowns and currently having the ability to run only one sidewalk machine. The sidewalk machines also had to be fitted with snow blower attachments, which slow their travel speed down immensely.
Limited cleanup and snow removal efforts were performed in critical areas on Friday and, due to the long hours of service and the need for the crew to take care of themselves, downtown cleanup efforts were scheduled for Monday and Tuesday nights of this week.
I think our road crew did a great job staying on top of the storm and I am very proud of each one of them. Their job is usually a thankless one, as are many other jobs within public works. I encourage you to take the time to let your town employees know they are appreciated and again, thank you for your patience and understanding.
Bill Kernan
Town of Middlebury
Director of Operations

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