Public Works Dept. plows ahead

By Martha Marteney - Staff Writer
South Windsor - posted Fri., Jan. 28, 2011
Karl Reichle, Dan Jacobsen and Michael Gantick stand in front of one of the town’s Freightliner, tri-axel automatic trucks. Photos by Martha Marteney.
Karl Reichle, Dan Jacobsen and Michael Gantick stand in front of one of the town’s Freightliner, tri-axel automatic trucks. Photos by Martha Marteney.

SOUTH WINDSOR - According to Karl Reichle, superintendent of operations for the South Windsor Department of Public Works, this has been an especially difficult year for snow removal. Even before the Jan. 27 storm brought another 12 inches of snow, the region had broken the snow record for January. “The men and women of Public Works have done a terrific job,” said Reichle.
Residents and plowing contractors are asked not to push or blow snow on the road before or after the storm. This create hazardous conditions in the road and is against town policy.
South Windsor is on the top of the snow pile in terms of technology, winning national awards for the use of global positioning solution technology in several of the snow plows. For example, GPS is used to identify the closest truck to clear a street in advance of emergency vehicles. It is also used to track how many of the town’s 139 miles have been plowed at any given moment, and can even be used to calculate how fast the trucks are travelling.
There are 16 snow plow routes and five alternates, which are staffed with a combination of town employees and contractors. According to Michael Gantick, director of Public Works, this allows for the needed flexibility to ensure that all roads are properly maintained, even when the inevitable happens, such as needed vehicle repairs or staff illnesses. Three mechanics are on staff to maintain the trucks at all times.
 “Until it affects you personally, you take snow-plowing for granted,” noted John Caldwell, parks superintendent. In addition to the roads maintained by the Public Works Department, the parks crew also maintains 5 miles of sidewalk and the town parking lots.
South Windsor is also in the forefront of technology in the calibration of salt used on the road. Gantick explained, “We’ve helped train other towns and set the standards.” The Connecticut Department of Transportation has even taped South Windsor’s demonstrations to use for training the state crews.
With all the snow and cold temperatures, there is a lot of moisture on the roads, and the frost has penetrated deeply. “It will be very telling this spring on the condition of the roads,” said Gantick. He noted that most South Windsor residents support the budget for road projects. “It’s one of our biggest investments.”
Dan Jacobsen is one of the senior drivers in the snow program, and has plowed along historic Main Street for the five years. He explained that the first thing to do is pre-treat the road with salt. When the plowing starts, he first opens up the center line of the road and the intersections. After that, Jacobsen said he may drive his 5-mile route as many as 20 times to clear the snow off the road.
“I love this area,” said Jacobsen while driving down Ferry Road. “You can see how beautiful it is,” he said during the daytime. Driving in the middle of a storm is completely different, especially at night. “It’s like riding a bronco,” he added. From a practical standpoint, though, he noted that the hardest thing is keeping the windshield clean.
“You want to develop a good relationship with the public along your route,” said Jacobsen. He asked that people be conscience of the placement of their mailboxes and garbage cans, in order to avoid damage from the snow shooting out of the plow. It is also helpful for people to wait patiently while the snow plow is clearing out an intersection. Most importantly, Jacobsen asked that children not be allowed to play in the snow banks and, especially, in the snow piles in cul de sacs.
With all the snow piled on the side of the roads, not only are sight lines a problem, but so are mailboxes. The town will repair or replace any mailbox damaged during snow plowing, up to the cost of $75. After a storm, residents should call 860-648-6366 to report the damage. For more information about the proper placement of mailboxes, visit the snow program page on the Public Works Department’s listing on the website at www.southwindsor.org.


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