Between the mountains of plowed snow, the potholes that have made roads an obstacle course, and the icy patches on streets and sidewalks, Princeton residents have had just about enough of the winter of 2014. So has Bob Hough, the town’s director of Infrastructure and Operations. Working in conjunction with police and emergency management, Mr. Hough has been coordinating clean-up efforts since the first storm brought down trees and power lines and dumped several inches of snow on Princeton a few weeks ago.
Mr. Hough’s biggest concern can be summed up in one word: Salt. “The lack of it is a huge problem, not just here but throughout the state,” he said Tuesday morning. “We’ve had our request into our supplier for weeks. But this year, the continuous flow we’re used to has not occurred. As our supply goes down, we typically would be refilled. But they have not been able to supply us.”
Another challenge is deciding where to put the snow that is plowed. “We’ve been doing a bit of hauling in some areas, but the storm a few weeks ago took down trees and power lines, so the crew had to deal with that as opposed to moving a lot of snow,” he said. “We lost a lot of man-hours because of that. But we’re working on it.”
There are growing piles of snow in parking lots all over town. “In some of the cases where these mountains are taking up valuable parking spots, we’ll have some people delegated to moving that snow,” Mr. Hough said. The snow is trucked out to the municipality’s site on River Road, where it is piled up to melt.
The department has moved snow on streets and in lots where it has compromised safety. “This morning, we did some roads near and around the high school area, because that was a nightmare yesterday,” Mr. Hough said. “Places like senior housing and schools are critical. In addition to being able to get kids in and out of the schools, we have to be able to get in there if anything were to happen. We have to look at the global picture.”
Mr. Hough urges people who have plows or hire landscaping companies to be careful about where they dump plowed snow. “If it gets plowed into the street, that causes a tremendous problem,” he said. “We’ve been going around, talking to several of the local landscapers, saying we understand they have to do their jobs but asking them to be more aware of where they are placing snow in the street.”
While the storms earlier this winter caused major damage to trees and power lines, the more recent ones, including the few inches of snow on Tuesday morning, have not. “The damage incurred after the heavy snowstorm and the ice storm that followed was relatively significant in the town,” said Greg O’Neil, Princeton’s Municipal Arborist. Speaking during a break from plowing on Drake’s Corner Road Tuesday morning, Mr. O’Neil said that while there was a lot of breakage and uprooting of trees, it wasn’t nearly as bad as during Superstorm Sandy.
Residents can minimize damage from future winter storms by keeping their trees healthy. “Have a professional arborist come by on an annual basis to evaluate your trees,” Mr. O’Neil said. “They can determine if there are structural flaws, pruning needs, that sort of thing. And it makes a difference.”
Potholes continue to be a major problem in and around Princeton. “It’s bad across the state,” Mr. Hough said. “And it’s a priority. But we can’t keep the potholes dry long enough to do any real filling at this point. The staff has been taxed dealing with snow issues, and they need to get some rest. We do have a running, growing list of potholes and, hopefully, by the end of this week, we can get out and go through them. We’ll start with the main roads and work our way out from there.”
Mayor Liz Lempert admitted to some frustration with the weather but praised public works crews for their efforts. “With all the snow, there’s just not enough room for parked cars, traffic, and sidewalks,” she said Monday. “But we’re doing what we can. Our public works crews have been working extremely hard, often without breaks because of the relentlessness of the storms. They and the police have been doing a great job. The recreation department has pitched in as well, doing some of the work that in previous years the public works department used to do. I think people have been rising to the occasion.”