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Fixes Sought For Snow Response

by David Blumenthal | Jul 9, 2014 1:47 pm

(9) Comments | Commenting has been closed | E-mail the Author

Posted to: City Hall, Neighborhoods

Thomas MacMillan Photo Adam Marchand’s neighbors had nowhere to park their cars except the street. But snow plows couldn’t get through.

The situation was desperate; Marchand, a Westville alder, contacted city officials, who had the blacktop basketball courts cleared at Edgewood School. Some 15 of Marchand’s neighbors precipitously perched their vehicles there.

The lesson? The city needs to directly confront the excess cars on streets during storms, deploying unorthodox methods like people “hosting” the cars of neighbors who do not have driveways of their own or enlisting empty lots at churches or synagogues, Marchand said.

“You can’t tell people to move their cars if there’s nowhere for them to go,” he said.

David Blumenthal Photo Marchand told that story, about the historic 2013 three-foot snowstorm, Tuesday night at a public “workshop” of the Board of Alders City Services & Environmental Policy Committee in City Hall. The workshop focused on how city departments can deal better with future snowstorms and super-storms.

Officials offering questions and fielding questions public works chief Doug Arndt, deputy emergency operations director Rick Fontana, traffic tsar Doug Hausladen, Chief Administrative Officer Mike Carter and Fire Chief Allyn Wright.

Several superstorms left New Haven unable at times to clear streets in recent years; problems resurfaced during a series of significant snowfalls this past winter, when the Harp administration failed promptly to tow cars parked in defiance of street bans. Hausladen admitted Tuesday night that, because of “capacity issues,” he could not tow all of the cars he wanted for parking violations. That led to bigger problems the city never got fully on top of until the snow eventually melted.

Wright told the alders that his main concern during the storms was that city residents have access to fire hydrants.

“They come down, make one pass,” he said of snow plows. “I think what we need to do on a lot of the streets is widen the intersection as close as you can so when you approach Townsend Avenue. ... You can pull over to let the car go by you.”

Arndt said his department was working on improving plowing, but still faces challenges due to narrow streets in many parts of the city.

“You can’t push the snow if there’s no place to push it,” he said.

Routes & Communications

Fair Haven Heights Alder Rosa Santana (pictured, second from right) began the questioning in earnest. She asked how the paucity of snow plows on her ward’s hilly streets during both Winter Storms Hercules and Janus could be remedied in the future.

Arndt responded that all of New Haven’s snow routes follow the paths of major streets with direct access to highways or hospitals.

“And Quinnipiac Avenue is not considered a main road?” Santana replied. “It’s to and from North Haven and East Haven.”

“I can’t recall,” said Hausladen. Arndt said that Quinnipiac would be marked with a sign saying, “Posted Snow Route” if it were one.

Arndt said he will try to expand the reach of city’s plow services. According to the City of New Haven website, a snow-plow driver generally takes three to six hours to complete each of New Haven’s 22 snow routes generally. Arndt said the city’s possession of only 28 vehicles hampers its ability to clear as much and as quickly as it would like.

“What it really comes down to is the resources that we have,” he said, estimating the cost of downtown snow removal at $30,000 a night.

The performance of the Emergency Operations Center’s staff during the storm also drew Santana’s attention. Santana said that many of her constituents had received five to ten information robocalls throughout the day during major storms from the city’s notification service. Many of them, especially the elderly, felt harassed.

Fontana expressed doubt that either Santana or her constituents had received so many calls. The EOC does not send notifications more than twice a day, he said, and does so neither before 10 a.m. nor after 9 p.m.

“Unless it was a targeted area, the city has not put out more than two calls in one day,” he said.

Who Plows?

West River Alder Tyisha Walker (pictured) said that during one storm she noticed the driver of a plow truck—not a public works truck, but presumably a contractor — neglecting his work. She recalled seeing a work truck “just chilling” for approximately four hours.

“They didn’t even put the thing down,” she said. “They just rolled on to the end of the street.”

Arndt said his department will consider using some sort of tracking devices via GPS to ensure that the contractors work efficiently. If not, he said, he will “get somebody out there to give them some assistance.”

This led to questions about the city’s reliance on outside contractors. East Rock Alder Anna Festa asked Arndt about the “cost variation” between using contractors or hiring more city employees for the jobs.

Arndt called hiring in-house a better option “in terms of the big picture.”“After five to ten years, our costs are dramatically lowered,” he said. “It’s dramatically less expensive for us to do it in house.”

Downtown Alder Abby Roth (pictured, second from right) suggested that the city considering hiring local youths in need of work to shovel sidewalks. She maintained regardless that she found the proliferation of unshoveled sidewalks in the recent storm “treacherous.”

Hausladen responded that he has the code enforcement officers necessary to keep the sidewalks clear, and that he doesn’t want to distract kids from academic pursuits.

“I hope our snow efforts are so great that they never miss a day of school,” Hausladen responded.

“Or they could do it in the afternoon,” Roth suggested.

“Engage Our Citizenry”

Morris Cove Alder and committee chair Sal DeCola (pictured) took the floor to emphasize the importance that the city “educate”  New Haveners about snow regulations. “Someone from each ward when we have a problem, we should have a direct call” from the city to spread information, he said.

DeCola added that he would like to see the city hold a public meeting in late September for such an education. Carter replied that the meeting is a good idea, but he prefers it be held in October.

Marchand proposed a tour of all the city’s community management teams. “We need to engage our citizenry and our society in a way that goes beyond messaging,” he said. “We need to be able to deliver X action in Y area at Z time.”

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posted by: anonymous on July 9, 2014  1:57pm

“Hausladen responded that he has the code enforcement officers necessary to keep the sidewalks clear.”

I somehow doubt this statement, considering that the sidewalks outside of areas such as Yale, City Hall, East Rock, and Westville are *NEVER* clear - this holds true especially in the areas that are walked every day by elderly residents, bus riders, and children.

Roth’s suggestion is a good one to explore. But instead of hiring school children, how about hiring some of New Haven’s 15,000 unemployed and underemployed adults.

posted by: Shaggybob on July 9, 2014  2:10pm

Great efforts in the right direction. Hope it doesn’t fall off the plate…...

The sub-contractors are horrible- I saw them driving around with plows up and making half efforted single paths that barely cleared the streets. Time to just eliminate them and do it our selves -IF we can get reliable trucks !

The robo-calls seemed like 10 a day although they were more like 4-5 times a day and none of the bans were enforced- I just stopped listening or complying.

“Hausladen responded that he has the code enforcement officers necessary to keep the sidewalks clear, and that he doesn’t want to distract kids from academic pursuits”

oh please.

  1) Kids need good work ethics as part of academics and helping the elderly and disabled is a good character building exercise.
  2) He may have the enforcement officers BUT there is still no procedure in place to enforce those tickets-(there is still no appeal process)
Why is that ?

posted by: mechanic on July 9, 2014  2:41pm

Did they not discuss enforcing alternate side of the street parking?  I know that was one of the biggest issues on our street.  We’d be told to park on the even side, or the odd side, and while people did it at first, we all learned that it didn’t really matter.  Either we wouldn’t be plowed at all, or they wouldn’t tow, or both.

posted by: Shaggybob on July 9, 2014  3:17pm

Great efforts in the right direction. Hope it doesn’t fall off the plate…...

The sub-contractors are horrible- I saw them driving around with plows up and making half efforted single paths that barely cleared the streets. Time to just eliminate them and do it our selves -IF we can get reliable trucks !

“Hausladen responded that he has the code enforcement officers necessary to keep the sidewalks clear, and that he doesn’t want to distract kids from academic pursuits”

oh please.

  1) Kids need good work ethics as part of academics and helping the elderly and disabled is a good character building exercise.
  2) He may have the enforcement officers BUT there is still no procedure in place to enforce those tickets-(there is still no appeal process)
Why is that ?

posted by: JustAnotherTaxPayer on July 9, 2014  6:21pm

In 1978 when the Blizzard of the Century occurred and a parking ban was placed in effect, most people who lived in New Haven complied. Even in what is now considered some of the worst neighborhoods in the city. Those who abandoned their autos understood they had to be towed, and the municipality with the tow companies knew that a “fair” towing price was in order.

Fast Forward 35 years. Towing autos for street cleaning and snow emergencies is considered “politically offensive”. How or why this determined is a mystery, but the change in policies did occur During Mayor DeStefano’s tenure.

It went so far that during street cleaning, vehicles that were left parked in violation were issued a parking ticket, then a tow truck was used to temporarily move the offending auto to a spot across the street, then back to it’s original spot, once the street sweepers went through. (sounds so much like someone vacuuming the living room rug and moving furniture.

Whatever the reasoning, it was overanalyzed by those good old folks at the Yale think tank, and the mess they have left the city with is no longer their concern. They graduated and moved on, and never ever will the paralyzing intellectual, who suffocates the easiest of functions for a city, be examined for the lost tangent he or she exists on. For sure though the thinkers from Yale are making well over six figures somewhere, and using their time advising New Haven’s town hall as a positive credit. Utter Nonsense.

posted by: ElmCity Jim on July 9, 2014  7:58pm

Someone, many years ago, had the foresight to put all of the fire hydrants on the odd numbered side of the street or conversely to make the side with the fire hydrants the odd numbered side.

In prior years when the city declared a snow emergency parking was prohibited on the odd numbered side of the street so that the fire hydrant side could be cleared first.  The downtown streets were a special category.  Even if vehicles were normally prohibited from parking on the even numbered side they moved to the even side during snow emergencies. 

If the storm was especially serious - after a few days the snow emergency was reversed and parking was then prohibited on the even numbered side until the snow emergency was abated by public works crews or by mother nature.

Citizens were notified by public service announcements or by PD vehicles using their loudspeakers as they traveled up and down the streets.

This system seemed to work fine although I am sure that there were some vehicles that had to be towed away.  However, as I recall few streets were as blocked as the one pictured at the top of this article. 

Sometimes the old ways work just fine.

posted by: robn on July 9, 2014  10:53pm

ANONYMOUS,

I too find it frustrating that many people don’t promptly shovel but the city shouldn’t be paying anyone to shovel walks. That responsibility falls squarely on the shoulders of property owners. I WOULD love to see the city pay temp deputies to daily ticket the hell out of people who don’t abide.

posted by: fastdriver on July 10, 2014  12:20am

It all SOUNDS good, but let’s see what happens next winter. Is Hausladen of THIS world? He states-“Hausladen responded that he has the code enforcement officers necessary to keep the sidewalks clear, and that he doesn’t want to distract kids from academic pursuits.” Is he for real or what? If he has the code enforcement officers, then he needs to send them over to LCI or whatever they’re called now, because they have NO ONE to enforce anything or do anything! With all the foreclosed homes, abandoned homes and empty for sale homes, the sidewalks are NOT cleared in the winter and the grass is NOT cut in the summer unless you become a thorn in someone’s side!

If the fines were high enough AND enforced, MAYBE the absent homeowners and banks with foreclosed properties would step up to the plate and do what they are supposed to do. As for distracting kids from academic pursuits, I don’t think there is any fear of that happening in New Haven.

As far as the robocalls, there were certainly more than 2 a day! Very annoying. One other thing- if people are supposed to park on the even side of a street, can the plow go to the CURB on the odd side of the street so that those cars do not end up halfway in the middle of the street because of the way the roads are plowed now. Can you switch sides once that is done so that the people on the even side of the street get plowed also and not plowed in!

Talk is cheap. Let’s wait and see what happens. I pray that things change, but I don’t hold much hope. There will be some excuse about old equipment or money problems etc.

posted by: budman on July 11, 2014  2:47pm

okay, so much to say with so little characters.  First, news flash to all alders.  This is New England - it snows here.  Alder Marchand, yes, the city can call a ban without offering a place to put vehicles.  People need to figure it out.  Alder Santata, if your constituents felt harassed for getting a robo call to tell them what was going on, they could have simply hung up the phone.  Alder Walker, if in fact a contractor was “just chillin” for four hours, why did you wait 6 months to tell the Director of Public Works about it?  Alder Roth, it is the property owners responsibility to shovel the sidewalk, not the city.  The businesses in downtown already pay a special tax for services.  Who is going to pay for your additional shovelers?  Alder DeCola, don’t we have Alders who represent each ward and are suppose to be the voice of their constituents - and the avenue of communication back from city hall.  Isn’t it your job?
Unbelievable!

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