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Rilling announces plans to improve school snow removal

A picture of Jefferson Elementary School, posted March 16 on Facebook.

NORWALK, Conn. – This is a press release, presented in the format in which it was sent:

 

Mayor Rilling Lays Out Improved Snow Removal Plans

 

Norwalk’s Mayor Harry W. Rilling, today announced changes to the City’s snow removal strategy.  “Although it’s near the 70s today, snow season is right around the corner,” Mayor Rilling reminded residents.  “My staff has been working together with the Board of Education and parent groups to identify solutions to issues which have frustrated parents and residents in past storms.”

Operational Improvements

The Department of Public Works (DPW) is currently responsible for plowing all City streets (630 lane miles), 22 City owned and school parking lots and 6 miles of sidewalks; Recreation and Parks Department (Parks) is responsible for plowing the public parks, shoveling City sidewalks, and 11 miles of school sidewalks.  Residents are responsible for removing snow from their own sidewalks, including bus stops on private property.  In order to more efficiently accomplish this huge task, DPW and Parks will combine staff and equipment during snow emergencies, both will be deployed from a single operations center enabling more coordinated timing of snow removal and a more efficient deployment of resources.

Norwalk High and Brien McMahon High School begin early in the morning and are also the most time consuming schools to clear. As a result, the City and school district are exploring the possibility of using surplus Board of Education funds from 2016-17 for a pilot program that would contract out plowing for one or two high school parking lot.  This would allow an additional five hours and give three city plow trucks the opportunity to focus on other schools and roads.

Communication Improvements

During snow events, the Superintendent’s Office, DPW and Parks will participate in an early morning conference call to discuss local conditions and progress of snow clearing operations. This call will better inform the decision to delay or cancel schools.

Community Engagement

The City and Norwalk Public Schools will increase efforts to inform residents on how they can contribute to City and NPS snow removal efficiency.  The City and NPS will widely publicize snow policies – including information on shoveling sidewalks within 24 hours of the storm, no parking in school and City Hall parking lots during snow emergencies, and reminders to park cars in driveways if possible.

A Sept. 18 Facebook post.

Additionally, the Mayor’s Office and Norwalk Public Schools are working with Norwalk’s Parent Teacher Organization Council (PTOC) to engage the community to assist with snow removal on problem sidewalks on school routes and bus stops.  The PTOC is investigating an Adopt-a-Bus-Stop program.  The PTOs will help identify the most problematic bus stops, and will work to enlist commercial and private volunteers to take responsibility for them.  Signage, web and social media acknowledgements will promote and sustain the program.

“Many of our students walk to school each day, even when snowy conditions are present.  We are pleased to partner with the City and parents to make sure that these students have a clear place to wait for the bus, and safe routes to walk,” said Board of Education Facilities Committee Chair Michael Barbis.

“We believe the increased coordination and cooperation between the various City and Board of Education departments and parent groups will enable our community to better “weather-the-storm” this winter,” said Mayor Rilling.

 

This press release was posted as a public service. A press release is a written announcement submitted to news organizations to publicize an event or activity, a milestone or a point of view. NancyOnNorwalk has not researched the assertions made and takes no responsibility for the content.

9 comments

Townie November 4, 2017 at 7:24 am

Give me a break! This is just another example of the NPS and City coming up with a new grand plan, that will cost the taxpayers more money, to overcome a problem that they have created………largely due to the huge egos they continue to trip over and their unwillingness, or inability to get the mission accomplished with what they have. Someone please tell me that the DPW and Rec & Parks don’t have the equipment and manpower currently in place to get the job done. Sounds like poor management to me. And on the NPS side, when you have a facility manager running the show, who’s only experience has been in the private sector, handling rented office space in high rise NYC buildings, what would you expect? Got a problem? If you can’t just get away with ignoring it, throw money at it by hiring outside contractors to get it done, instead of effectively managing and supervising your own workforce to perform. It may be that the NPS facility folks just can’t perform either.

Bryan Meek November 4, 2017 at 7:52 am

@Townie. NPS is currently not responsible for clearing the lots under current government structure. What is being proposed is that NPS pay to outsource removal of snow from one of the HS lots possibly due to the DPW/R&P shortages you cite. The cost of this is small fraction of the cost of closing the schools for a day because of snow. You seem to have some axe to grind against “outside contractors” who might actually get the work done. Sorry keeping the schools open is more important than overtime. The city can’t afford to have extra equipment and workers lying around all year when we are only talking about a few days of work. Seriously, when you guys are out there stealing lawn signs instead of cleaning storm drains or cutting down dead trees, you do this to yourselves. Stop whining.

Donna Smirniotopoulos November 4, 2017 at 9:44 am

The mayor made this announcement four days before Election Day when it was sunny and seventy. Next Wednesday the lows will be close to freezing. In politics, timing is everything.

Townie November 4, 2017 at 10:52 am

I understand that NPS is not responsible for clearing snow from their lots and drives. I also understand that the plan is to have NPS pay an outside contractor to start clearing snow from one, or both of the high schools, in order to relieve the DPW & Rec & Parks from this burden. I don’t believe I cited that this was a result of either DPW to Rec & Parks having a shortage of equip and manpower……..to the contrary I believe they have always had same to get the mission accomplished. Frankly, I don’t recall either Dept being short change by the City when it comes to supporting their operations with the tools they require to get the job done. And this has always included (as you have affirmed) the current government structure whereby the DPW clears the school lots and drive, and the Rec & Parks the surrounding walkways and paths……..a structure that has been in place for what I am told for over 40 years. So why now is it necessary for NPS to start relieving the DPW of their responsibilities? If DPW no longer has the ability to reliably clear a school of snow, then why don’t they make the arrangement with an outside contractor to plow and oversee the work? They are the experts in this regard, not the NPS. Why burden the NPS facility dept with something they shouldn’t be involved with, when they are already having difficult times just trying to keep the school bldgs clean and repaired? Even with some heavy outsourcing of janitorial and mechanical, electrical, plumbing work taking place over the last 3 yrs. Your comment about the price to outsource the plowing of one school being a fraction of the cost to close it for a day because of snow is absurd. Please tell when that one individual school building has been forced to close due to the inability of DPW to clear the snow from the lots and drives, in the past. Either all 19 schools have been clear of snow and ready for opening, or none have been. I have no axe to grind about using outside contractors in lieu of ones inside manpower, when it provides direct cost savings that
can be clearly substantiated. Is this the case here? Does using BOE surplus budget funds to pay for the snow clearing of one school ( more likely two when it is finalized) make it right, or help justify the need? Am I to believe that this small fraction of a proposal is not just the start of the big plan to eventually have all 19 schools outsourced in the very near future. And why? Merely to attempt to pacify a small group of unhappy folks? Because you can no longer make the current government structure work, regardless that it possesses all of the equipment, manpower and resources to do so? Makes no sense to me, nor does what you state in the ending of your comment. Seems you are the one that has an axe to grind my friend……..you say using outside contractors who might actually get the work done. Does this mean you are of the opinion that the city employees who are currently tasked with these assignments are not getting the work done? You state that keeping the schools opening is more important than overtime. Yes, keeping the schools open is very important, but you need to be fair. You either keep them open by city employee overtime, or paying an outside contractor. And if you think that this can be done with less expense by using outside contractors, as opposed to City and BOE, I have a bridge in Brooklyn you may want to buy. The numbers have been done in the past and the comparisons made. You will pay at least 2X more by using outside contractors.
To be fair, it is not true, as you state, that extra equipment and workers might be lying around all year for only a few days work…..this is just not a accurate comment. And lastly, if I were a city employee, I would be confused, or even upset with your last comment, in which you say Seriously, when you guys are out there stealing lawn signs instead of cleaning storm drains or cutting down trees, you do this to yourselves. Stop whining. First, it seems that the “you guys” are being accused of stealing lawn sign, so my question is have the police been notified and is An investigation under way. I realize that if one is underway, no further comments can be made. Second, I don’t imagine that the “you guys” work on a honor system, without any type of supervision, or direction, and that the supervision being provided the “you guys” is
receiving oversight by upper management to ensure that acceptable levels of work performance are being achieved and accountability of the workforce maintained by all? So, in the event that the “you guys” are being accused of stealing something and the “you guys” are being expected of not getting certain types of work accomplished, who is to blame?

Rick November 4, 2017 at 12:50 pm

They should put GPS on parking authority trucks so when they drive to NJ to the Laz office the city cam bill for the trip.

Its odd how most of the plates on snow removal vehicles including bob cats that the parking auth use are norwalk municipal plates run by laz.

Was the deal the city hires Laz and the city provides the fuel and equipment for snow removal?

Bear in mind the auth was caught at the end of last winter hiring outside contractors who spoke about why they were clearing sidewalks on water st by the old closed clinic.

The salt shed at the dpw is it full and what kind of deal do you get in June on salt? Who uses that salt or does the BOE have access to it or do they use salt by the bag?

Its time to ask some questions they say its an election is near.

Bryan Meek November 4, 2017 at 2:06 pm

@T. No axe to grind and maybe I misunderstood your context. I’m not aware of any ulterior motive to annex all school lots. The intent is to increase the velocity with which all lots are cleared of snow thereby improving chances that school does not need to be cancelled in total. The cost of snow days is difficult to measure since we have makeup days at no extra cost. But, the school year goes beyond the regular calendar into summer programs and some day year round schools so this does need improvement or else it wouldn’t even be considered. I can’t comment on the last 40 years of operations, but lately it seems there are other priorities and yes management is ultimately accountable.

Stephen L Horvath November 4, 2017 at 4:37 pm

IS he supplying the custodians with snow shovels?..Back in my day, that was part of their job…

Townie November 6, 2017 at 7:03 am

Stephen, I agree…….back in my days as well. Every School was provided their own power equipment, hand tools and even foul weather gear to clear the snow from the sidewalks and away from the exterior classroom and exit doors. Light snow falls were done with no need for any overtime expense, during normal work time. Often during a delayed opening, or in the event of a closing during the custodians normal work hours. All at no extra overtime cost. I hear that the BOE now wants to pay outside contractors to take over this work. How does this save any money? Back in our days, the outside ground were cared for by the custodians during normal work hours, with no overtime expense. They cut grass, trimmed edges, beds, bushes, trees, blew the sidewalks, etc. All mowers, tractors, bakback blowers, trimmers, whackers, hand tools were provided at each school. Apparently now, as I am told, all of this work, at every school, has been contracted out. This costs extra money, but the custodians who no longer are required to do this work receive the same pay, work the same hours, and have not been required to do any alternate tasks in place of the work that was contracted. Normally, work that is being done by your in-house staff is never outsourced unless it provides a savings.

took care of grounds, cut the grass, trimmed the bushes, etc. but not anymore.

Concerned November 6, 2017 at 9:51 am

What I don’t understand, and what wasn’t addressed, is why is the lot plowed by DPW and the sidewalks by Parks & Rec? That is the issue, two different departments working independently. While a school lot is being plowed the school sidewalk should be cleared at the same time. The largest issue for parents and schools is that a lot may be plowed but the sidewalks not cleared, or vice versa.

Even if an outside company is involved there will still be two different companies responsible fro clearing one school. Why can’t the DPW clear the school sidewalks as well?

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