By Jim Clark
Various issues concerning snow removal – and some problems arising from this activity – were discussed at last week’s meeting of the Somerville Board of Aldermen.
While the sheer volume of the white stuff that fell in the recent winter months proved to be overwhelming by some of the work crews and residents tasked with clearing public and private spaces, questions and comments regarding best practices needed to be addressed, according to several of the Board’s members.
Ward 1 Alderman Bastardi expressed concern that the state’s Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR) has categorized Somerville as a level 3 area, prioritizing snow removal in a less thorough way than a level 2 designation would provide.
“It is my hope that by asking the DCR to reevaluate the way that they prioritize Somerville that we will become a priority 2,” Bastardi said. The level 2 status would, as defined by DCR, upgrade service to include “sidewalks, pathways and crosswalks providing safe passages to schools, foot bridges, bus shelters, bus stops, T-stations, including median strips and handicap ramps.”
“I don’t understand why Somerville is a priority 3 to begin with,” Bastardi said. “If we reprioritize to a [level] 2 they would have to do it within 12 hours of a snow event. Last snowstorm, it took them seven days to clear the sidewalks.”
Alderman Trane of Ward 7 further lamented the situation, citing conditions along Rt. 16 where snow had been piled so high onto sidewalks that it created dangerous conditions for drivers and pedestrians.
Questionable performance by DCR was further noted by Ward 4 Alderman Lafuente, who said that certain city residents actually had their lawn sprinklers ripped up from the ground during snow removal activities. “They’re obviously not being attentive to the community,” Lafuente said.
The Board adopted a resolution asking the state delegation to petition the DCR to elevate the status of the city from level 3 to level 2.
In a related matter, Alderman Trane and Alderman Sullivan submitted a resolution that the Board of Aldermen ask the Administration to continue to educate residents on the city’s snow removal policy and encourage neighbors to work together, especially during snow storms.
Alderman Sullivan discussed the fact that several residents in his ward complained of mistreatment by their neighbors when it came to dealing with snow removal issues. “Some of it might have been people not knowing about snow removal policy,” said Sullivan, who noted that many residents were blowing and dumping snow onto their neighbors’ property or onto the wrong side of the street. The practice of holding parking spaces by placing chairs or barrels on the streets was also mentioned.
“I got a lot of calls and complaints also,” Alderman Trane added. “It is basically about snow etiquette. What do you do with the snow? How do you handle it fairly without blocking your neighbor’s driveway?”
“It causes issues,” Trane continued. “Neighbors get back at neighbors, and it turns into a Hatfield and McCoy type of thing, where one time friends and neighbors suddenly hate each other because of a snowstorm.”
The resolution urging that “snow etiquette” education be improved upon was approved by the Board.