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Waterford Bucks Malloy’s Advice; Sides With Safety

A Friday night decision by Waterford brass went against the governor’s advice and likely made it take longer to clear the roads, but town officials say was made for safety reasons.

Friday night, Public Works Director Kristin Zawacki and First Selectman Dan Steward made a decision – a decision against the governor’s advice – that made it much harder to clear the roads but increased the safety of the town's plow drivers.

At around 9 p.m. Friday night, with snow coming down at roughly 3 inches per hour and heavy winds, the town ordered all vehicles off the roads, including all plow trucks. This came after two plow trucks got stuck in downed power lines and plow drivers had trouble seeing in the blizzard-conditions, Steward said.

“Considering the safety issues we had to deal with, to protect the employees and to protect the public, we had to get off the road,” Steward said Monday. “If you can’t see, and you’re driving a 10-ton truck, that isn’t a good thing.”

That decision was against Gov. Dannel Malloy’s advice, who told municipalities to plow throughout the storm. In a Monday press conference, Malloy said he had state plow drivers go throughout the storm.

“There is going to be a lot of time for people to second guess themselves,” Malloy said Monday. “What I can tell you is that with respect to our Department of Transportation, we remained plowing throughout the storm... And maybe there were judgments they had to make based on how much snow was falling at anytime, but let me assure you (the commissioner of the DOT) followed my advice. We plowed throughout the storm.”

No plow drivers, or anybody for that matter, were hurt during the storm in Waterford, Steward said. However, when the plow trucks were sent back on the roads at 1 a.m., the snow was too thick and heavy for a lot of them and it slowed down the clearing of the roads, he said.

Clearing

Throughout the storm, plows got stuck in the snow and three broke, Zawacki said. On Saturday front-end loaders were needed to help clear the roads, which slowed down the process, she said.

“We have equipment that covers 98 percent of the storms we deal with,” Zawacki said. “But this was an anomaly. You can’t size up for storms like this.”

Matt Kobyluck, owner of Kobyluck Brothers LLC, called the town offering his services, Steward said. Steward said he got five front-end loaders from Kobyluck, along with five employees to work them.

“Matt lives in town and was willing to help us, and it wasn’t for free,” Steward said. “I needed the equipment and I needed the personnel. And he had both.”

The process was slow, although Zawacki praised Waterford's 14 plow drivers. She said they went 16-hours at a time, and continue to work to clear the roads.

“Our guys did a great job,” she said.

Decision

Monday night, Patch posted on its Facebook page the decision Steward and Zawacki made. Waterford Patch Facebook followers were unanimous in their support of their decision. Here are some examples:

Wendy Oviatt Pias: “I think our Selectman and PW Director made the right decision- we should never put our people in danger!! That storm was crazy..sometimes we need to remember what is really important in life!!!”

Kathleen Waszczak: “You guys did a great job, everyone needs to have more patience and understand that your only human not mega robots. This storm was a burden on everyone in the state of Ct.”

Malloy, meanwhile, said municipalities could make their own decision. However, he said his decision and advice was to plow through the storm.

“There is going to be plenty of time for people to second-guess themselves on that,” Malloy said at a Monday press conference. “I gave advice, the advice was to plow throughout the storm, subject to safety issues. They had the right to make their own decisions about safety issues. I can assure you (the commissioner of the DOT) followed my advice.”

Brian Sullivan February 12, 2013 at 11:38 AM
Good thinking! Thank you. Driving a 10 ton truck in whiteout blizzard conditions… That would be stupid.
george February 12, 2013 at 12:34 PM
I have a saying, Leadership is Action, not Position. Great leadership in keeping those drivers off the road.
David Irons February 12, 2013 at 02:04 PM
The adage in the Army was, "Lead, follow or get out of the way." It appears that Dan Steward and Kristin Zawacki decided to lead. Thank you both for putting our town workers' life and safety first and foremost. The snow could wait to be plowed.
Foofaraw February 12, 2013 at 02:09 PM
I would think the snow plow drivers would make the decision to keep plowing. They are on the front lines and unless you are sitting right next to them no way to see what they see. That being said, I think the state truck are better equipped to handle extreme conditions.
Ron February 12, 2013 at 02:10 PM
To take Molloy's advice on anything is similar to taking a rattlesnake to a kissing contest. They both have bad outcomes,
Bob Bristol February 12, 2013 at 02:21 PM
I was in town yesterday visiting and could not believe how horrible the roads were. I've never seen the roads that bad in my life. I was very disappointed. BUT, after reading why they are that way, I understand and agree with the Town's decision of Safety First! Waterford crews have always done a good job and I'm sure they will do a great job cleaning up this mess now that they can operate safely. As for Malloy, it's very easy to be in the State's Emergency Center all warm and make decisions. Each area of the state may have it's own conditions to contend with. Sure the state trucks were kept on the roads, but the roads are mostly highways with less issues to contend with. They also have plenty of equipment and resources. You made a good call Waterford.
JB February 12, 2013 at 03:40 PM
Nice to see that Matt Kobyluck reached out to the town to offer his services with his equipment and crew. He put aside the differences he had with the town over the rock quarry. Thank you Matt and please thank the workers who helped us all!
Daniella Ruiz February 12, 2013 at 04:24 PM
the heavy, wet snow brought many limbs of trees down to ground level, breaking many of them. even small trees suffered major damage. those that did swing down often were over power AND communication wires, and many of those did NOT snap but remained energized at eye level, a very serious situation indeed! it is fortunate people heeded the warnings and remained in place, or went to shelters, keeping the distress levels to a minimum. as communities blend and find they have more in common by considering the needs of others, they will make the entire region a healthier and safer place for all. work together and play together, and it makes it easier to share peace together. last two days, the warm air has melted so much snow, i hope the spring growth will wait for the really sunny warm days.
Jenelle February 12, 2013 at 05:56 PM
Way to go, Dan! ....Steward, that is !!
Mary Cahill February 12, 2013 at 09:53 PM
I don't understand why the town did not get the state in to help. Dan Steward said we did not want to do that. Why? I live near seaside and the best plowed road in the town is the state facility. I think in a situation as serious as this every resource should be used. My street has only seen one small town truck since Sunday.
Dave Lersch February 13, 2013 at 01:57 AM
Even in Northern Minnesota, snow stays on the road for many days after snowfalls like this one. Anyone who thinks roads should be cleared any sooner have a poor grip on reality.
Daniella Ruiz February 13, 2013 at 02:34 AM
near Rochester and Plattsburg NY, the snow drifts would often be at roof level and the frigid cold would keep the roads with a snow covering, packed and frozen for a month. (easier to drive on at least, but SLOWER) and these smarmy people gripe about a plow delay of a few days!?!? they don't know how good they have it here!
Walter February 13, 2013 at 12:46 PM
I think DPW is down several employees and they have not filled vacant positions leaving them short plow operators to man the available equipment. Then you park trucks and let the snow overtake the roads. I agree with safety of the employees however lets not sugar coat this, facts are facts. There are underlining issues that need adressing and someone needs to be held accountable. The town had better service in the blizzard of '78 with inferior equipment. Just being real here.
Carla February 19, 2013 at 02:17 AM
Walter, I agree with you. Although this storm was awful, I think the town could have done a better job. Also with the power out, we could not get to a shelter because we could not get out of our street because the town did not plow.

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