Town Crier

TEWKSBURY — The Tewksbury Select Board met on Dec. 21, 2021, to dis­cuss snow plow operations with DPW Director Brian Gilbert.

Gilbert shared that Tewksbury has over 160 miles of streets and 16 acres of municipal parking lots. The Department of Public Works receives as­sistance from the school maintenance department and parks and recreation department in plowing.

Additionally, the town re­moves snow from over 19 miles of sidewalks.

“The goal of the DPW is to provide safe passage” to and from homes, schools, and businesses.

Changing storm conditions and variability dictate the strategy of how the DPW fights storms.

“No two storms are alike,” Gilbert said.

The DPW tracks snow texture, timing, duration, rate of snowfall, pre- and post-storm conditions, and road temperature conditions to best distribute resources through the three stages of winter op­erations: anti-icing, plowing, and de-icing.

Gilbert said that Tewks­bury is one of many local communities struggling to recruit plowing contractors for the winter storm season. The town has 24 in-house employees and 41 contracted pieces of equip­ment; in the past the town has had as many as 62 contractors, a number that declined to 48 last year in “a downward trend,” Gil­bert said.

Currently, the number puts the town about seven plow routes short.

“With fewer contracted vehicles the time necessary to remove snow and clear roads will increase,” Gilbert explained.

The department has mo­dified route assignments to better accommodate the low number of contractors. Larger vehicles will be assigned to major arterials, while contractors with smaller vehicles will plow neighborhoods.

While Gilbert anticipates more contractor sign-ups, he asked residents to be patient.

“We want to serve the community and keep you safe with the least in­convenience possible,” he said.

Gilbert speculated as to why fewer contractors are signing up to plow for the town. He said that insurance costs for contractors have increa­s­ed, as the town requires contractors to have a commercial insurance policy, and many contractors find it less ex­pensive to obtain a policy in the new year rather than in Decem­ber.

As a result, the town added a $5 increase to hourly rates for early sign-ups. Gilbert said that contractors have also been trying to re­coup costs, with little incentive to plow with mild winters. The town also lost several contractors to plowing private parking lots at higher pay rates, and many communities have engaged in bidding wars to attract contractors.

Board members remin­ded businesses and community members to clear the sidewalks adjacent to their parcels.

Member Todd Johnson asked Gilbert how many contractors have return­ed to work for the town over the years; Gilbert said that a significant number of contractors have been loyal to the town. Johnson suggested offering a bonus to longtime contractors to incentivize continued sign ups.

Member Jayne Well­man praised DPW staff for their hard work, noting that one shift of staff members works until the storm is through; Gilbert added that some employees work for 30 hours with only a short nap.

Town Manager Rich­ard Montuori reminded the board that the town will not attempt to cut costs in a storm, but will do what is necessary for public safety.

Gilbert said that in a storm, residents can call the DPW to see when their street will be plow­ed during normal business hours at 978-640-4440. Residents should not be alarmed if they do not see their road plowed during the early part of a snow storm.

Individuals interested in contracting with the DPW may email As­sis­tant DPW Director Da­vid Lizotte at dlizotte@tewksbury-ma.gov.

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