Feel like going for a walk? (Sidewalk clearing has begun)

Above: DPW clearing town sidewalks, from a 2011 blog story when the sidewalk plow was out of service. Thankfully, the DPW got ahold of a rental this week. (Photo by Susan Fitzgerald)

Looks like depending on where you live, you can, or will soon be able to, get out and walk.

That’s if you can handle the wind chills. (And if you think today’s cold, don’t bother opening your door tomorrow. Forecasts show wind chills as low as -9 degrees.)

But I digress.

The real purpose of my post is an update on our town’s sidewalk plow.

The Department of Public Works began clearing sidewalks yesterday. Department head Karen Galligan informed me that the DPW has rented a blower.

Before getting that news, I had been worried about what the holdup with our out of service plow was. I even worried that too much snow had built up on the walks for the blower to handle once fixed.

Here’s how Town Administrator Mark Purple responded:

The sidewalk plow is waiting on parts, so it should be up and running next week.  At some point in the next few years, it will need to be replaced.  DPW is currently evaluating what type of unit they will want to replace it with, as the State bid list currently is listing equipment different than what we use.  Using the State bid list saves time and (usually) money.

Moving forward, DPW will clear the sidewalks as manpower and equipment allows.  While the snow is now higher and deeper, it is not insurmountable for these machines to move it.  Obviously, it is important for students that walk to school and residents that regularly use the sidewalks.  We have looked at renting equipment to bridge the gap, but there is very little left that Boston and its area communities have not already grabbed.

In looking for a picture of the sidewalk plow, I came across this relevant post from 2011. In it, Galligan answers Susan’s and readers’ questions about  the responsibility for clearing sidewalks. (Interestingly, the sidewalk plow was out of commission then, too.)

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Louise Barron
8 years ago

This is not what I expected from the officials in this town. No sidewalk plow for years.
You should all be fired. DPW, Selectmen, the bunch of you. Now the snow is too high and sidewalk plows are virtually unattainable. No excuses. I know we pay exorbitant taxes.
Let’s just say you have all failed at your jobs. We all deserve better than narrow roads, too narrow for two way traffic, and sidewalks that don’t exist

8 years ago

When was it determined that the old plow was broken? It really has been a sad thing to see that we can’t get those sidewalks cleared. Hopefully we won’t break the rental with all that packed down snow.

8 years ago

Since the original post on this subject, I have been looking at municipal-type sidewalk plows on line – they are not a dime a dozen, and you can’t simply go to the nearest hardware store and buy one. Being a specialized piece of equipment I can only assume that the initial cost, maintenance and parts are big $$$$$$. And the part’s are probably special order given the age of the machine.

I too am somewhat frustrated with the width of the roads, but given we have seen record snowfall in a short period of time they are in fairly good shape given the conditions Mother Nature has thrown at us in a short period of time! In many cases there is simply no more room to push the snow. In the winter of 1978 there were streets in town that you could not drive down for a week! And after they were opened, they were only wide enough for one car. We have had much more snowfall in a shorter period of time than in 1978.

Having snow plowing experience doing parking lots and private streets, I can say that as I drive through many communities Southborough does a fairly decent job. Just go over the line in Marlboro and see what their streets are like – Rt. 85 as well as a majority of their side streets are very narrow!

It is a record-shattering snowy February in Massachusetts, with more snow to come! Patience is the word of the month!

mike fuce
8 years ago

My God Loiuse you sound so bitter. A new machine was in the budget that Karen put in a few years back and the town voted it down. The DPW constantly runs on rebuilt, c outdated vehicles. THey do a fantastic job. Take a ride over to Marlboro or Wayland and see how the DPW operates there. It is horrible. Stop complaining and attacking the DPW. If you want to do something go after the unions that are entrenched at the schools, in government that are running the funds in town broke each year and keep increasing.

Louise Barron
8 years ago
Reply to  mike fuce

You are darn right I am angry. I don’t pay taxes, or walk in Marlboro or Wayland. If those towns are also doing an inferior job at clearing snow, should we replicate that.
I’ll go after the individuals who are responsible for mismanagement, negect of their jobs and disregard for the citizens safety in Southborough. The lack of proper sidewalks and roads are a direct result of the need for change. You know what president said that. Boy, did we get change. Chump change. I’ll be as angry as I need to be to make the selectmen and dpw wake up.

8 years ago

I don’t want to fault the hardworking DPW crew that have spent tireless hours clearing roads after these storms, but who is going to answer to frustrated taxpayers who see the article from 2011 that says the sidewalk plow was broken – and are living the reality that it is again broken or perhaps still broken. I can attest to the fact that one snowy night recently when exiting Route 85 to Woodland Road, there was nearly an accident with people walking in the roadway because they didn’t have sidewalks to walk on (that intersection turns your car to the right so your headlights don’t show fully whats in the road until you make the left turn). And isn’t sidewalk clearing for walking students a priority? I agree with Louise – we pay enough in taxes to expect certain things. I work in Hopkinton – their sidewalks have been cleared after every storm – and their roads are in MUCH BETTER condition than Southboro’s unfortunately.

Elaine Y
8 years ago

Whatever happened to people shoveling their own sidewalks – or kids going around with a shovel and earning some money – and by the way getting some exercise.

8 years ago

As Ms Daniels posted in the 2011 article referenced above, in Massachusetts, the responsibilty of clearing sidewalks lies with the home or business owner of the property on which the sidewalk lies or is adjacent to.

Al Hamilton
8 years ago
Reply to  RBF

For the last 15 years or so several of my neighbors and I have cleared the 1/4 mile or so of sidewalk in our neighborhood with snowblowers. For the first time, we have all surrendered. Between the 3+ feet that fell, the stuff the town plows put there and the 5-6′ piles from the plows clearing driveways it is not possible.

Sometime mother nature wins.

8 years ago
Reply to  RBF

So I have about 150 feet of sidewalk around my property with about 30 feet under 6 feet of snow. I’ve got a great snow thrower that can even handle a foot of the wet stuff I’m sure we’ll get later this month.
Forgive me if I gave up clearing the sidewalk but I had enough when I had to run backwards down the sidewalk away from the plow with the wing blade from hell. Two brand new sidewalk plows could NOT keep up with the snow we have had this winter.

We have too much snow. We’re ALL doing what we can. Stop complaining and pick up a shovel.

Now for my complaint – I’m doing everything I can to get my kid on the bus safely but when neighbors with plow services create 6 foot drifts against the sidewalks so they can have enough room to polka around their SUV’s then what can I do?

There I said it. Thank you to my daughters bus driver for making a stop closer to our house. We all struggle but in the end the right people make the right decisions that keep my kids safe.

Anita Reeder
8 years ago
Reply to  RBF

Read carefully what this law actually says and how it speaks to the topic at hand, that is, PUBLIC sidewalks. I have cut and pasted the pertinent paragraph to our discussion, with uppercase being mine, as follows:

“Am I required to shovel the PUBLIC sidewalk in front of my house/business after a storm?

In MOST Massachusetts towns and cities, the answer is yes, and municipalities have the power to enact such bylaws and fine scofflaws. Check your local town ordinances for guidance. The CITIES of Boston, Cambridge, Somerville, Newton, Lynn, and Worcester (among others) all require property owners and businesses to clear municipal sidewalks in front of their residences or businesses. Fines are assessed against non-compliance. The City of Boston mandates clean sidewalks within 6 hours of a storm; Worcester is 12 hours. In Somerville, for example, if snow ceases to fall after sunrise (during daylight hours), property owners must shovel sidewalks by 10 p.m, and if snow ceases to fall after sunset (overnight), property owners must shovel sidewalks by 10 a.m. You can also be fined for shoveling snow onto the street, blocking a curb cut or putting snow on municipal owned property.

IN SOME MORE RESIDENTIAL TOWNS, THE LOCAL DPW WILL CLEAR THE SIDEWALKS, but the default rule is that property owners are generally responsible for clearing their OWN sidewalks and driveways.”

It states clearly what is expected of those living in large municipalities, i.e. cities. The second paragraph speaks to those who live in towns such as Southborough. It goes on to say that “property owners are generally responsible for clearing their OWN sidewalks and driveways.

If you read the actual law, it speaks to property owners own sidewalks and driveways, not the common sidewalks in front of businesses and homes. Those are governed by local ordinances. (Too often in the past, homeowners would simply not bother to shovel the snow on their property, thinking that if they didn’t, they wouldn’t be held liable if someone got hurt. In fact, a friend who is a lawyer advised us of this over 20 years ago and they NEVER shoveled. We did….and do.) This law was enacted to protect those who might have to get to these person’s front doors.

Having said that, I am particularly concerned about the sidewalks leading to the train station. I know firsthand that you are taking your life into your hands if you walk on the street, as I had to take the train and was forced to walk there, not having anyone available to drive me (as I have been doing for my husband…and the mess at the station is a whole other topic for discussion!) and was nearly hit by 4 different cars and this was NOT rush hour. I was as far over as I could possibly be on the road and cars were not stopping, nor even slowing down, to get past one another to make sure they avoided hitting me. It was the scariest thing I have had to do in a very long time. I sincerely hope that those persons who have to take the train every day have someone who can drive them, because they are definitely taking their lives into their hands.

I did notice that the sidewalks on 85 had an attempt made to clear them, but Southville has not been touched as of Saturday afternoon. I have not been out and about yet today, but I expect our plow drivers are busy clearing roads. So, I am wondering, when will the Southville sidewalks be cleared?

I know that our street is now impassable except by one car at a time. I know that our DPW drivers are doing the best they can. I also know that no attempt has been made to push the snow back as I have seen on other streets in other towns to prepare for future storms, which is why we are in this predicament now.

When we first moved here 24 years ago, we only had pickup trucks plowing our street. Then, many years later, after we were finally accepted as a town road (why it took so long is beyond any of us!) we had the municipal trucks plowing and it was so much better. Now we are back to pickup trucks for plowing again. It just cannot do the job that a regular municipal plow can. On one day during one of these storms, a municipal truck came up our road, but was not plowing, sanding or anything else. Curious, that. Still can’t figure it out.

I do not blame the actual drivers for the predicament we are now in, unless they are not reporting back to the DPW office the reality of the streets they are taking care of. This situation is unfortunate and the frustration of the residents is understandable. I am sure it is frustrating for EVERYONE. There are just a lot of questions in my mind as to how we have handled snow removal during these recent events.

Once thing is certain….spring will come….eventually….

Al Hamilton
8 years ago

I checked the on line Code of the Town of Southborough and there does not appear to be a by law requiring property owners to remove the snow from the sidewalks in front of their property. (I searched on the term Snow and Sidewalk independently). The one exception is developers are required to clear sidewalks until their roads and sidewalks are accepted by the town.

Most of the town is not served by sidewalks so this has not been an issue to date. However, it is bound to come up some day. I like sidewalks and think we need more.

That being said, this year, it is not practical for most residents to remove snow from their sidewalks.

Louise Barron
8 years ago

I’ll pass on a heart attack shoveling 6 feet of snow. I’m not a kid, and prefer to leave this job to snow plows and working sidewalk plows. There is a sidewalk on my road. Of course no one can use it. Let’s not repeat these snow related problems next year. Repair and purchase new equipment.

Just Curious
8 years ago
Reply to  Louise Barron

So Louise, does this mean that you will vote to support an increase in the DPW budget? I always enjoy your antics at TM, although I don’t think I have ever voted with you on anything. Just saying :)

Louise Barron
8 years ago
Reply to  Just Curious

Just Curious. No intestinal fortitude to show your name. What a whimp. My antics, You’re a dope. Just saying

Let's Keep it Classy
8 years ago
Reply to  Louise Barron

Hold off on the name calling

Southborough Old Timer
8 years ago

If the DPW purchased fancy snow removal/excess equipment BEFORE this unprecedented winter you’d have people saying ,”My taxes are high enough, we don’t need that fancy snow removal equipment, we never needed it before.” Now that we’ve had a huge snow storms you hear the crying, ” I pay taxes why isn’t my sidewalk plowed, my streets are narrow, get the fancy equipment out!” Darned if you do, darned if you don’t. btw individuals don’t pay taxes…Everybody pays taxes.

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