‘Constructive’ Discussion Planned On Plow Issue
By: Mary Stanley
The Department of Public Work’s controversial wintertime Do Not Plow list of private roads is once again scheduled as a topic of discussion on the board of selectmen’s meeting agenda.
Though a portion of this discussion will allow for input from the public, next Thursday night’s agenda is specific that the input must be “constructive.” Board Chairman Frank Pannorfi said this is about finding a better way for the town to notify residents who live on private roadways that their roads did not make the cut for plowing services.
Residents were notified in March of this year that their private roads did not meet minimum standards by way of an orange tag hung from their home’s door handle. The tags gave a general reason why the road would not be plowed and a deadline of October 1 for fixing the problem.
“I would have preferred some kind of written document sent out to the residents with copies of the documents kept on file,” Mr. Pannorfi said in a telephone interview this week.
He explained part of next week’s discussion will be about finding constructive ways for dealing with the issue of plowing private roads, within the confines of the law and the town’s finances.
The policy is in place to prevent plow equipment from being damaged or stuck on substandard roads, requiring the assistance from other plow drivers.
Director of the Department of Public Works Paul S. Tilton, who is scheduled to discuss the matter with selectmen next week, said he will be going through the town’s winter road maintenance policy to see if any language in that document needs to be changed so that there is no confusion about the minimum standards required for receiving plowing services.
“Parts of the policy will be better defined, so that it is easier to understand,” Mr. Tilton said.
He said the discussion will also cover how the town plans to enforce the policy.
Mr. Tilton said, though the policy was adopted in 1994 and not changed in 17 years, this is the first year that the town has taken a strict approach to enforcing it.
Over the past several months, residents living on some of these private roads, however, have harshly criticized the town’s strict adherence to the policy. For some residents, such as those living on Pierre Vernier Drive, improving road conditions are out of their control. The biggest issue for this is the poor condition of John Ewer Road, the sole access to Pierre Vernier Drive. John Ewer has many potholes and cracks that make it hazardous for plow drivers.
For other residents, such as those living on Fox Trot Run, it was the overgrown vegetation that knocked them off the list of private roads that will be plowed this winter. But when resident Beth E. Russell tried to find out which vegetation needed to be cut back and how much needed to be trimmed, she received no response from the Department of Public Works.
Mr. Tilton said the reason for the strict enforcement this year has to do with problems his department has had to deal with over the past several years. He said there have been numerous times when DPW employees and equipment had to be diverted to private roads to assist one of the private contractors hired by the town whose plow truck was stuck or equipment damaged because of the poor conditions of the road. He said that those incidents took his employees away from main arteries and public ways that the town is responsible for plowing.
“We need to be able to focus on the school bus routes and the main arteries,” he said.
Mr. Tilton said the town’s policy is no different than any other town on the Cape and that residents were given ample notification of the problems with their private roads and what needed to be fixed.
“Chatham puts out a list of private roads that do not meet minimum standards in September and does a reinspection in December. The minimum standards are very consistent across all of the Cape towns. We gave our residents more time [to make the changes or repairs],” he said.
Mr. Tilton is also scheduled to speak at the selectmen’s meeting about the town’s pay-as-you-throw trash program at the transfer station and to provide selectmen with a six-month review of the cost savings that resulted from implementing the program this year.
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