PITTSFIELD, Mass. — The city is facing shortages of snow plow contractors and is looking for a solution.
Commissioner of Public Services and Utilities Ricardo Morales told the City Council last week that Pittsfield has been short-staffed for contractors. The number of contractors that sign up for work with the city has reportedly dwindled in the past three years, the city faced shortages in 2018, 2019, and 2020.
The first challenge, Morales said, is related to the pay rate they can offer.
"It's a demand game," he said. "We offer a rate and if some contractors do not see that as appealing, they won't sign up."
The major snow event brought 18 inches of snow over 12 hours and after-storm operations lasted the better part of a week and extensively for 36 hours after the storm.
Morales said the declaration of the snow emergency and the implementation of alternate side parking was sent out to approximately 26,000 Pittsfield residents through the city's Code Red system.
Additionally, the city sent out a press release that reached an unknown number of residents.
About 16 vehicles were able to be moved that were originally parked on the wrong side of the road, Morales said, and about 20 vehicles were towed.
"I have not seen any complaints brought to the city by the folks that had vehicles towed, I have not seen anything like that," he said. "For that size storm, I think it was a great response in terms of odd and even side parking, we've seen that level of towing in any storm, so the changing of the sides did not really make any discernable impact other than a normal parking ban."
The total cost of the Dec. 16 snow emergency cost the city about $93,000, which reportedly goes with the typical cost of a snowstorm of this magnitude.
In the winter of 2019, a storm that resulted in a few more inches of snow and was prolonged to 24 or 30 hours from the first to the third day of the storm cost the city $150,000.
Of that $93,000 cost of the December storm, $1,760 was spent paying the Pittsfield Police for details to assist with towing and the rest went toward contractors, salt, and other materials as well as other department overtime.
Ward 4 Councilor Christopher Connell said he received many calls about unplowed streets.
"Honestly I don't think I've, and I'm not exaggerating, I'm going on my 10th year as a councilor, I don't know if I've gotten as many calls of streets that were not done," he said. "We've got some type of problem here with the private contractors, and as a result when they don't do their job whether they're doing their own private contracts first with private individuals first before they get to our city streets, as a result, they don't get out there so you have to send our own guys, which they are doing on a lot less sleep, and it's more wear and tear on our vehicles and especially wear and tear on personnel."
Morales reported that there were 18 to 20 streets that needed extra attention, most of which were side streets. He said his department is taking steps to mitigate these issues, as they know which contractors did the streets in question.
The city is looking into whether it would be cost-effective to increase rates so that more contractors will sign up to plow in the winter months. Since last winter, officials have been watching over plowing procedures closely.
"Last winter, we took very strict measures to eliminate contractors taking advantage of the city and I'm not pointing fingers and I know that had some level of impact," Morales said. "We are now a little more strict than we were before."
He said some snowplowers are veterans in the game, and some are new and learning. Rather than not re-hiring contractors that have had minor mishaps, they will be reviewed so they can move forward with a better way of plowing the streets and areas they are assigned to.
"At this moment I can't say we are removing contractors," Morales said. "Because we don't have that luxury when it comes to an event as we saw on the 16th of December."
Some contractors will not be called unless a huge storm approaches that requires all hands on deck, but in general, Morales wishes to correct bad behavior and train them to be successful.
"That being said," he added. "I think everyone here recognizes that the snow event on the 18th was very difficult to cope with in terms of us keeping up with the amount of snow that was falling."
Ward 5 Councilor Patrick Kavey thinks it would be a good idea to get more city staff in house and use contractors less, especially if they can figure out a way to use competitive wages for the in-house staff and take care of them with full-time hours, give them benefits, and still have that cost come in as less than what the city pays contractors.
Contractors are paid about three times as much as city employees with hourly rates ranging from $70 to $130 depending on equipment.
iBerkshires.com welcomes critical, respectful dialogue; please keep comments focused on the issues and not on personalities. Profanity, obscenity, racist language and harassment are not allowed. iBerkshires reserves the right to ban commenters or remove commenting on any article at any time. Concerns may be sent to email@example.com.
iBerkshires.com welcomes critical, respectful dialogue. Name-calling, personal attacks, libel, slander or foul language is not allowed. All comments are reviewed before posting and will be deleted or edited as necessary.
Homelessness Advisory Panel Reprimanded For Internal Disrespect
By Brittany PolitoiBerkshires Staff
Chairwoman Kim Borden warns advisory committee members to be on their best behavior after 'inappropriate' communications.
PITTSFIELD, Mass. -- The Homelessness Advisory Committee reportedly experienced recent issues with "highly inappropriate behavior and communication, threats and the spreading of misinformation" and Chairwoman Kim Borden is not having it.
At the third meeting as a newly established committee on Wednesday, Borden shared her thoughts on the current climate of the committee.
"In the last month, I've been subjected to highly inappropriate behavior and communication, which has include bullying threats and the spreading of misinformation," Borden said. "At this time, I will not identify the specific depict individuals as I do not believe in public shaming. This is not what I signed up for and more importantly, I do not believe that other committee members should be subjected to this extraordinarily destructive dynamic."
This type of communication or behavior may result in a request that appropriate steps be taken to remove the person or persons creating a hostile and/or unproductive environment, she said.
At this time, no committee members are being removed. If any are removed, they will be replaced with individuals with an "appropriate level of civility and a desire to work together as a team and respect others."
Chairman Nicholas Caccamo said the petition's language was not sorted out well enough, so the committee voted on it as a concept that will be sent back to the City Council with a negative recommendation.
click for more
The topic sparking controversy was the reclassification of Human Resource Director Michael Taylor's position and a salary increase of roughly $7,500. It passed 4-1 with Maffuccio voting in opposition.
click for more
Twenty percent of Berkshire County's population has received their first dose of the COVID-19 vaccination as of Thursday and around 8 percent have received the second dose. There were more than 3,000 Berkshire County residents vaccinated on Saturday.
click for more