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Making it through winter

By ANDREA FURLONG

City public works employees are crossing their fingers this winter will be better than last. So far, the forecast is agreeing.

Last winter, the City of Williamsburg received 52 inches of snow, according to public works director John Avery. The winter of 2009-2010 has dealt out 22 inches of snow so far, with seven inches falling within a three-day span (Jan. 6-8). However, despite occasional heavy precipitation, Williamsburg has less snow than it did last year at this time.

“It’s somewhat less than it was last year. We’re nowhere near (last year’s) amount yet, thank goodness,” Avery said.

BY THE NUMBERS

Avery estimated he and the other three public works employees have spent a total of 80 hours plowing city streets so far. In the last week, the city was billed $2,556 by J and S Farm Supply to haul 20 tons of snow from the square to the Williamsburg Recreation Center ballfields (a service the city pays for every year). And, current supplies of salt and sand are in no danger of running out.

“We are far ahead of where we would normally be at this time. We have ample sand and salt and we still have our stockpile of raw salt just in case we have an ice storm,” Avery said.

According to Avery, while snow plowing is not the only job of public works employees, it occupies a good deal of their time on the job every winter.

“It usually takes us anywhere from 48 to 72 hours to bring the city streets back to the original condition they were in. We usually have to clean the square three times within one snowfall — eliminating all the snowfall that’s been pushed into the square by the business owners because they don’t have anywhere to put it,” he explained.

In addition to snow removal, city employees must still attend to their everyday responsibilities at the wastewater and water treatment plants, as well as emergencies, like two water main breaks this past Monday.

“We still have to check all the wells, do laboratory testing of wastewater daily — winter, summer, spring and fall — (and) garbage pickup for the park. Even though it’s winter time, we have garbage that’s put out around the square. Plus, we have daily operations at the water plant, monitor the city’s four wells to make sure everything’s running correctly and check the city’s eight lift stations,” Avery said.

HELPING OUT

Even when the weather is somewhat agreeable, it helps if the residents are as well, Avery notes. There are little things that residents can do so that the winter duties — mainly snow removal — can be done faster and smoother for the benefit of the community.

First, residents can point their snowblowers away from the street.

“Do not or blow your snow out into the city street because it is against city code,” Avery said.

Residents should also always keep a distance of 50 feet between their car and the back end of a snowplow, and refrain from passing while it’s in operation, Avery said.

“If you cannot see us in our rearview mirror, we cannot see you. The most dangerous time to pass a snowplow is when it’s plowing snow. Usually it’s not wise because you’re going to go into something that’s a lot deeper and a lot slicker than what he’s working on.”

To ensure safer condition for mail carriers, residents may also want to leave 15 feet of approach and 15 feet of exit space to their mailboxes.

Residents may also take heed of city ordinance 69.11, which prohibits parking or leaving vehicles unattended “on any public street, alley or city-owned area during snow removal.”

In the event a resident ignores warnings from the police department, their vehicle will be towed to BJ’s Towing or city property and will unavailable until impound fees are paid. So far, the city has not had to impound any vehicles this winter,” said Williamsburg Police Officer Mark Hartnett.

“This season we’ve had very good compliance with the residents of moving the vehicles. To the best of my knowledge, everyone that’s been contact has complied,” he said.

Hartnett added people without driveways can still help out by moving their vehicle, so plows can get to that spot.

“They’re going to have to make sure if it does snow, move it on the other side of the street if they can or further down from where they were parked,” he said.

UPDATED January 13, 2010 4:19 PM

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