Director of Public Works: worst storm since 1880
By Christian Mysliwiec - Staff Writer
South Windsor - posted Thu., Feb. 21, 2013
Following the blizzard of Friday, Feb. 8, and Saturday, Feb. 9, which took weeks to clean up, Director of Public Works Mike Gantick reported to the Town Council on Tuesday, Feb. 19, to describe how his department responded. “This storm has been characterized as one of the worst the area has seen since 1880,” said Gantick. Some parts of the town received well over 30 inches of snow, with drifts 4 to 5 feet deep.
Public Works called in five extra contractors before the storm, to have a total of 26 crews available before the event began. The town has 21 plow routes. The first night - Friday night into Saturday morning - was not very productive, according to Gantick. “They spent most of the time getting stuck and unstuck,” he said.
“There was a three-hour period Saturday morning which was pretty much insane,” said Gantick. “We had eight trucks broken down, there were at least four medical calls going on at the same time, there were two structure fire calls outs, and we had a water line break. And between all that, we had at any given time one or two trucks stuck.” During this period, Gantick sent out payloaders for snow removal and “truck retrieval.” However, the payloaders were getting stuck, as well.
On Sunday, their goal was to open every road up for at least one lane.
At this point, they were bracing for predicted storms on Wednesday, Feb. 13, and Saturday, Feb. 16. “I filed a formal request with the Department of Emergency Management and Homeland Security for truck plows and snow blowers, and also trucks for the transportation of snow,” Gantick said. “But after I did that, the governor announced that he's not going to make any equipment available for any towns for five to seven days because their hands were full.”
The town crews continued to work. Widening lanes meant pushing snow back into driveways, much to the frustration of residents who had just cleared their driveways.
Gantick told the council his department is still processing the cost of the storm response by Public Works – at the time the only answer he had was, “a lot.” He will be applying for reimbursement from FEMA.
Deputy Mayor Gary Bazzano thanked Gantick for his work and for the work of his crews. He noted that many of the complaints he received from residents were related to work done by contractors – not by town crews. Bazzano also asked if Gantick determined any weaknesses in town equipment. Gantick alluded to some needs that he would address when the town manager, Matthew Galligan, returned from vacation.
Counselor Keith Yagaloff said that the town was ahead of other communities in clearing the snow. “Compared to other towns, South Windsor was completely fantastic,” he said. He also suggested that a conversation needs to be had about what equipment the town needs to better respond to medical emergencies during serious snow events.
Counselor Cary Prague felt confident that new equipment would be in the future of the Public Works Department. “Obviously I think we're going to approve some new trucks for you in light of the situation,” he said.
Counselor Saud Anwar believes that the town needs to learn from this storm, which he said could have been worse. “What if we had lost power? This would have been a nightmare,” he said. “In hypothermia, low temperatures, people actually can die.” He said better ways to respond to medical emergencies during storms need to be explored. “We need contingency plans for 'what if' situations,” he said.
Mayor Thomas Delnicki thanked Gantick and the Public Works employees for their performance. “You can have the best equipment money can buy, but without good people, they're worthless,” he said. “It's the people that make Public Works a great department.”