MELROSE — The city has seen close to 50 inches of snow fall this winter — most of it coming within the last two weeks — and cleanup costs are going through the roof.
This week, Melrose residents saw at least another 15 inches of snow from a storm on Monday that cancelled school for two days, seriously curtailed municipal government activities and tested residents’ resolve. The DPW, according to Director John Scenna, spent between $150,000 and $200,000 battling this most recent major storm, and has spent a total of upwards of $400,000. In less than two weeks.
“It’s been a busy 10 days,” Scenna said Wednesday. “We haven’t really shut down the department or its activities since the morning of the first storm (the blizzard of January 26-28). In fact, we worked the Saturday before that, when we picked up some significant amounts of snow.”
The city has between 45 and 50 contracted pieces of equipment at its disposal to remove snow and ice, on top of the 30-35 DPW pieces. And they needed just about all of them.
“There’s an enormous, historic amount of snow out there,” Scenna explained. “We’re not getting any snow melt either, and that pattern seems here to stay for the time being. The men have been on rotating shifts so they have been able to get some rest, but the I think the department has responded well these last 10 days. They did a remarkable job in historic snowfall conditions.”
Scenna also thanked residents “for being as cooperative as they have been. We’ve had two citywide parking bans in two weeks. We all have to work together as a community in situations like this, and I think we have.”
He said the department and firefighters always appreciate people’s assistance shoveling out hydrants and catch basins.
Each year Scenna’s department gets $500,000 for snow and ice removal. With more storms in the near future forecast, it looks like that is pretty close to being gone.
On Monday, Mayor Robert J. Dolan began blogging out bulletins.
For instance, City Hall offices closed at 1:30 p.m.; however, the DPW Storm Operations Center remained open for the next 24 hours.
The on-street parking ban will remain in effect through Tuesday morning, except for business districts.
The city asked residents to please keep your children off snowbanks and the streets, as some snowplows have limited visibility and it is dangerous.
Homeowners were urged not to blow snow into the streets.
On Monday around 5 p.m., Dolan said snow removal would be conducted in front of schools at night, which involved trucks and loud noises. “We will do it as quickly as humanly possible, but there is no other way to do this,” he wrote.
Around 6 p.m. Monday, he said, “We are continuously reviewing the track of the storm, and it seems to have stalled. We are now canceling school in the City of Melrose tomorrow. We want to ensure the safe passage of our children and commuters, and therefore we have made the decision to cancel school on Tuesday.
Here are some other things you need to know:
The parking ban will be lifted at 6 a.m.
Trash and recycling pickup will be on a holiday schedule, so Monday’s pickup will be done on Tuesday, and the schedule will be on a one-day delay for the rest of the week.
It is illegal to blow snow into the street. Please do not do it.
It will take some time to clean up this snow, so please be patient.
All calls regarding snow should go to the DPW Storm Operations Center, 781-665-0142.
Around 6:40 p.m. Monday, due to the snow, a decision was made to close both the Melrose Public Library and the Milano Senior Center Tuesday, February 3.
On Feb 3 around 10:15 a.m., Dolan wrote, “I have gotten a number of calls from people who pay their taxes in person at City Hall. While tax bills were due yesterday, there will be no penalty for late payments until next Friday, February 13, due to the weather. Take your time and be safe.”
On Feb 3 at 11 a.m., the mayor sent this out:
“Right now, we have almost 50 inches of snow on the ground, which is the largest total over a 10-day period in the history of greater Boston, including Melrose. It is going to take the City several days to get life fully back to normal. The roads are clear, sidewalk plows are completing their routes, and our DPW staff continues to work tirelessly around the clock. Here are some unavoidable facts:
“It’s February 3, it’s extremely cold, and this snow is not going away. Therefore, we are going to have to adjust in many ways, as a community, to this reality.
“All of our roads are incredibly narrow, because, like on your own property, there is simply no place to push the snow. In many cases, that will continue to be true.
“There is a tremendous amount of snow piled up on corners, making visibility challenging. There are tens of thousands of corners in the city, so we need to prioritize removal.
“After the first storm, we brought over 800 loads to the snow dump on Route 99, and we are running out of space. Removal of snow is highly regulated by the state and local government. We can’t just put it anywhere.
“In conclusion, there are some things that aren’t going away: We aren’t going to be able to park in front of our houses on really narrow streets. That is going to be an inconvenience. We are all going to have to give ourselves a lot more time to get where we need to go. Walking across the city is going to be difficult. Every sidewalk cannot be cleared; we have cleared the routes on these maps:
“I am asking residents to be good neighbors and clear snow from their sidewalks, as well as around any fire hydrants near their homes. Although the City does not have a sidewalk ordinance, Massachusetts law imposes liability on property owners who fail to remove snow from in front of, or around, their property. In order to assist in the City’s snow removal efforts, and avoid injuries to others, I am asking residents to keep the sidewalks and hydrants around their property clear of any snow.
“We are going to have to help each other in many ways, including helping getting our children to and from school and keeping an eye out for our elderly neighbors and help them when we can.
“As with the last storm (the Jan. 26-28 blizzard), we will take a methodical approach to cleanup of a historic storm of this magnitude.
“Since the streets are cleared, we are focusing today on school grounds and dropoffs. We will make sure our schools are as cleared out as they were last week, and we will work with the School Department to extend dropoff to assist you.
“We still are plowing and sanding in the city’s neighborhoods. That will not stop.
“We are in the process of identifying intersections that have the highest traffic to prioritize them. They are the intersections on our plowing routes that have been identified as the main thoroughfares to get across the city. Removal of snow from the corners in those intersections will begin tonight and continue throughout the week.
“We will be removing snow from the business districts to allow access to stores for medicine and food. That will be completed by the end of the week. We are expecting another storm on Thursday (Feb. 5), and we are coordinating our operations to account for that possible additional total.
“We have very limited capability for widening roads. We will be identifying key collector roads that web out from schools and business districts. It is impossible to widen every road in the city. It can’t be done, and it is not going to be done anywhere in the Commonwealth, but main connector roads will be identified. Widening these roads is a time-consuming, labor-intensive process. We appreciate your patience.
“Everyone in Massachusetts is in the same boat we are in. We have excellent, experienced staff that is working incredibly hard during this historic storm. We need your patience and your assistance. Please help us with corners, hydrants, and catch basins if you can. Look out for your neighbors, help carpool children to school, and work together in a patient environment that displays our community’s spirit. We thank you for your cooperation and we will continue to work for as long as it takes.”
On Tuesday, Feb 3 the city began to enforce the ordinance regarding clearing snow from sidewalks in business districts. This may include fines.
Dolan wrote to merchants, “The city has spent a considerable amount of time, money, and energy to keep businesses open during this storm, and we will continue to do so, but it is our minimal expectation that frontages of stores will be cleared of snow and ice, which so many of you already do. Thank you for your continued cooperation.”