New Haven Director of Public Works John Prokop addressed the Board of Aldermen Thursday night to discuss the shortcomings of the city’s response to recent snowfalls in anticipation of the next storm.
The meeting discussed the slow response of Public Works and the Emergency Operation Center, New Haven’s emergency response unit. In addition to lodging their complaints, the aldermen offered suggestions about ways in which New Haven could be better-prepared next time.
“Public Works does not have staffing availability to run 48-hour operations for a three-day storm,” Prokop said.
Initially, Prokop defended his position by reiterating the difficulties his department faced with the recent onslaught of snowfall, which totalled 59.6 inches in January.
“In the last storm, when 2 to 3 inches of snow is coming down per hour, with nine trucks off-line, it becomes almost impossible for all streets to be cleared,” he said.
While the aldermen said they understood that clearing all the snow was not possible the night of the storm, many brought up the issue of the lack of communication within the emergency response departments.
Ward 30 Alderman Darnell Goldson said that although the Emergency Operation Center insisted that certain roads were plowed, the roads were still covered in snow. He added that he decided to investigated the matter himself.
“The night of Jan. 27, I drove to every street in my ward, and there were two streets that weren’t plowed,” he said. “I called EOC, and had been told that it was plowed, while I was standing in 2 feet of snow. It is embarrassing for me, and it is extremely embarrassing for the city and Public Works.”
Prokop explained that there are four supervisors who oversee 29 trucks, which breaks down to 60 miles of streets for each supervisor. If there is an issue, he said, the supervisor is instructed to go to that location and address it.
But in this case, he said he could offer no explanation and could only speak to the future.
“In the future, we will have people out there inspecting,” he said. “I also made a recommendation that anytime we get a minimum of 8 inches of snow, the EOC have full telephone operations.”
Other aldermen agreed with Goldson, citing that their biggest issues had to do with miscommunication as well.
Justin Elicker FES ’10 SOM ’10, Ward 10 alderman, encouraged Prokop to take advantage of technology to keep citizens informed of emergency operations.
In addition to snow plowing, the challenge of snow removal was discussed, particularly because of the massive amount of snowfall this year.
Though Prokop said that using larger snow-removal trucks would is expensive at $1,000 per hour, Ward 5 Alderman Jorge Perez suggested that the city could use one or two trucks, instead of 10, to cut costs.
Though Elicker warned that climate change would cause winters of such a brutal scale to be commonplace in coming years, Prokop said he hoped the weather could be used to the city’s advantage in the short term, and help melt the snow.
The city has already surpassed its budget of $500,000 for snow removal.