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.
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.
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.”