Niagara Gazette

January 29, 2014

EDITORIAL: Falls officials need to address plowing problems

Niagara Gazette

Niagara Gazette — Stephen Sondheim once wrote “Send in the Clowns.”

In the city of Niagara Falls, the sad tune goes more like this: “Send in the Plows.”

While we are acutely aware that the weather has been colder and snowier of late than it has been in years, we are also puzzled at the city’s performance when it comes to one of the its main jobs: Clearing streets following snowy weather.

City officials, including Department of Public Works Director Dave Kinney, have repeatedly explained the system employed following a snow storm. Plow crews start with the main thoroughfares, drift into secondary streets and eventually, if all goes as planned, side roads are cleared too.

At several points this year, it has seemed as though the system is not operating as efficiently as it should be.  

Too often, residents, especially those living on less-traveled side streets, have been forced to navigate snow-covered roads for hours upon hours, longing for the sight of a single city snow-removal vehicle. 

Dyster’s administration has done an admirable job of tending to potholes and dilapidated city streets in the spring and summer months and that is a credit to Kinney and his staff.

We do not advocate for wholesale changes here, nor do we want to blame the crew members who diligently spend hours upon hours plowing snow in often horrendous conditions.

We do, however, believe that in a city where the finances have once again been buoyed by an influx of casino revenues it must be possible to improve snow removal response times.

Is it a lack of equipment? A manpower issue? A need for more overtime funding? The use of crew members hired to handle snow-removal duties? 

It may be a combination of all these factors and more. 

How will anyone know unless questions are asked and answered? 

Earlier this year, Councilwoman Kristen Grandinetti, with support from other members of the council, called for an update on the inner-workings of the city’s snow-response efforts. To date, the discussion hasn’t taken place. 

We invite the council, the mayor and members of his administration to take the issue up again as soon as possible. 

Rather than bristling at criticism or shrugging off concerns from residents bold enough — or angry enough — to call to complain, the administration should be paying close attention and working to address any deficiencies that may exist. 

Residents have for years bemoaned the conditions of city streets and positive strides have been made to address their concerns. 

It would be shame to waste the road-repair momentum by creating an environment during the winter in which residents are too often inconvenienced by a lack of adequate snow-plowing service in their neighborhoods. 

Around here, city taxpayers can often be heard to exclaim “where are the plows?”

The city’s goal should be to replace that age-old question with a new refrain, something more in tune with what Sondheim might have said, as in: “Don’t bother, they’re here.”