By BOB BURGESS
MELROSE — The winter of 2014-15 was already a record breaker before the city saw another 15 inches of snow fall Valentine’s Day night and Sunday, February 15. It now may be a bank breaker too.
The city will spend at least $1.5 million on snow and ice removal this winter, according to DPW Director John Scenna, the most he can remember in his time working in Melrose. As of midweek, the city had seen 92.5 inches of snow, just about all of it coming in a 21 day “blitz” beginning January 24, Scenna explained.
The city plans for overdrafts in the annual snow and ice budget, however, so no impact is expected to be felt in residents wallets.
Officials planned a “mega snow haul” out of the city’s business districts, including downtown, upper Main Street, Melrose Highlands, upper Franklin Street, Wyoming Square and Cedar Park beginning at 8 p.m. Friday, February 20, and running to 10 a.m. Saturday. It was to include several pieces of large equipment in addition to in-house DPW staff.
According to a blog from Mayor Robert J. Dolan, “This operation will not affect the downtown restaurants. I encourage you to go out to dinner on Friday and operate as you normally would. We will not begin removal in those areas until after 11 p.m., when the restaurants close. Parking lots are included in this haul, and they will be accessible on Friday night.
“This operation is noisy and must be completed in one night due to high costs, the availability of outside contractors, traffic impact and public safety,” Dolan continued.
As residents dug out from the most significant recent storm last weekend, the DPW did too. Scenna reported that much of the city’s fleet used to remove snow is in decent shape. “We’ve taken a couple of pieces out of service but that’s not unusal given how much we’ve worked them. For the most part, when we do lose equipment, it’s only temporary. We’re able to get them back into service pretty quickly,” Scenna said.
Because the most recent storm happened on a weekend, and because Monday was a holiday and public school students were off this week, the city was able to return to normal pretty quickly. Dolan lifted a parking ban for just the city’s business districts at 7 p.m. Sunday. A ban for the rest of the city stayed in effect until further notice.
All events planned for school buildings this week were held as scheduled.
Education Station programs operated at the Lincoln School Tuesday. The library was open Tuesday as well.
The Milano Senior Center reopened on Thursday.
The Council on Aging minivan was available for medical appointments and grocery shopping on Tuesday, and the Council on Aging office was open.
The annual Winter Festival took place at Mt. Hood Thursday. We remain very concerned about the amount of heavy equipment in the city.
Parents were urged to keep children away from snowplows and trucks and away from snowbanks during the February vacation.
Several days of sub-zero temperatures resulted in very icy walkways and roadways, even with treating. The city urged residents to use extreme caution when driving, give yourself plenty of time, and go slow.
DPW crews, together with public safety chiefs, identified and were in the process of further identifying collector streets, cut-through streets and corners to be widened. Dolan blogged, “You will see improvement every day, however this is a long and time-consuming process. Please be patient.”
He concluded, “Obviously, this historic storm is testing all of us. Please continue, as Melrosians, to show your courtesy, your strength, and your neighborliness as we take on this historic winter. Remember your elderly neighbors in need when you go to the store or pharmacy. Please help us remove snow from hydrants and corners, if you have snowblowers.”
Scenna thanked his crews — both DPW and private contractors — for their work during the past three weeks. “Their persistence and their commitment to the job of getting snow off city streets is admirable,” Scenna said.