Editor's Note: Former Mayor Sebastian Giuliano sent several dispatches throughout this past weekend's blizzard. He offers readers insight from both his experiences as a citizen and civil servant.
To the Editor:
Saturday, 8:45 p.m. I haven't seen a plow since about 9 last night. The snow has been blowing and drifting and, with the cold temps, it's going to be very densely packed. I don't know how well the plows can break through it.
My experience was to launch the fleet early on and keep plowing throughout the storm as it is much more difficult to wait for the storm to end and then tackle it. I don't know why the city has been unable to follow that practice, but they must have a reason.
[Editor's Note: City crews have been on the roads non-stop since Friday morning plowing streets.]
Sunday, 12:30 p.m. A plow has finally come by my house. It took him 15 minutes to go past my front yard; the driver goes a couple of feet, backs up, gets a "running" start and goes a couple more. At this rate, he'll spend the next three hours on this street alone.
Bottom line: Maple Shade Road has been impassable for at least 36 hours and, from what I've been hearing and reading, most of Middletown is similarly situated. It's amazing that no one has endured a life-threatening circumstance in an inaccessible location.
At the risk of seeming like I'm second-guessing my successor, I would have had a different set of priorities. I would have met with the Public Works Director and the President of Local 466 as early as Friday afternoon.
I would have wanted to establish "round-the-clock" operations. The goal would have been to have a truck down every road once every hour. With a forecast of heavy snow and high wind, the objective would have been to break up the drifts while they were still manageable and relatively small.
The goal would not be to plow the road to make it passable for normal traffic flow but to stay ahead of conditions — or at least keep up with them.
State Rep. Joe Serra, who spent many years in our Public Works Department, once told me that we don't just plow to clean up from the current storm but, more importantly, to deal with what is to follow. I never forgot that.
The forecast was for high winds and heavy snowfall with snow drifts. When snow drifts, it packs. The longer it goes on, the bigger and more dense the drifts become, and the more resistant to plowing. Our trucks are designed to plow snow off of a road while traveling at a minimum speed of 20 mph, not to smash into heavily packed snow, back up, and repeat this process for miles on end. It's bad for the trucks and worse for the drivers.
As I said, there must be a reason why the mayor has opted to tackle this situation as he has done. I just can't think of one right now.
Sunday, 4:47 p.m. The next question: If you have to haul the snow away, where do you put it? We had so much in 2010 that we filled the Vets Park parking lots, we filled the Vinci property on Newfield Street (Mr. Vinci graciously extended the invite to use the former Holley Dodge site, which was vacant at the time) and I called Aetna and they let us dump snow at their site. I still believe that snow-melting equipment would be a good investment.
Sebastian Giuliano, Former Mayor of Middletown