SANDOWN – Though the majority of residents and plow drivers do the extra work necessary to make sure their portions of snow don’t negatively impact their neighbors, enough of them aren’t doing so to prompt the Sandown Police to begin coming down on those dumping their snow into the streets.
There’s a town ordinance on the matter, and while it’s not the first time there have been issues surrounding snow placement, the volume of snowfall in recent weeks is pushing the issue to the forefront.
The town’s policy on the issue reads that plowing snow from a walkway or driveway into a town-accepted or town-maintained road can result in a fine of $100, assessed to the property owner.
Director of public works Artie Genualdo has often complained about plow drivers and snow blowers making more work for him and his road crews, and it wasn’t long after the first big storm of the year that the old problems came to the surface again.
According to Genualdo, it’s generally the same dozen or so offenders each year and it seems to have become a game to them as they dump driveways of snow into the public roadways.
On top of these repeat offenders, residents are taking out their anger for the weather on plow drivers, throwing snow, shovels and curses at the people trying to clear their roads.
“But this nonsense of pushing snow into the road has got to stop,” said Genualdo to the board of selectmen Monday.
While Genualdo and his plow drivers have asked those that they know are pushing the snow out into the streets to refrain from doing so, their requests aren’t always met well.
According to reports, a recent altercation had a repeat offender blow the town’s contractor off, wiping off his license plate and telling him to call the police if he wanted, but he knew no repercussions would be coming.
Police chief Joe Gordon said that with the kind of work in front of the town’s workers this year, they didn’t need to be dealing with inconsiderate plow drivers and homeowners as well, one of the reasons he has decided to step up enforcement on the issue.
Number one for Gordon is the safety part of the equation. While snow in the streets can cause unsafe conditions for drivers, some of the driveways are seeing huge, packed down snow banks coming out of them into traffic lanes. When town plows hit them, they break equipment or push the vehicle into the opposite lane, Gordon said.
Gordon added that the selfishness of a few individuals is causing safety hazards for many.
“It should be a common sense thing,” said Gordon.
Prior to Monday’s meeting with the board of selectmen Gordon declared a three strikes rule for the offense, but selectmen agreed it was too lenient.
Both chair Hans Nicolaisen, also a plow driver for the town, and Steve Brown spoke to the issue, but the board was unanimous that there was no need to give three strikes – two strikes was plenty.
Thus officers will be directed by Gordon to give a single warning to those guilty of ordinance violation, and if they have to come back there will be a $100 fine.
“It takes the discretion out of it,” said Gordon.
The fine will go to the property owner, so those using contracted help should make sure they’re following the rules.
If police catch someone in the act, however, and that person ignores requests to fix the situation, Gordon said there could be cause for an arrest.
“We’ll arrest him then and there if he won’t accept the warning as given,” said Gordon.
The chief explained that the department isn’t out to catch people plowing across the road and cleaning up the mess afterward, but those causing major issues.
Genualdo noted that he understands moving snow is frustrating for the homeowner, and said he also has to shovel his mailbox out after the plows came through, and more than once has had to replace a downed box. To help out, Genualdo is sending a cleanup truck behind the wing truck.
The smaller truck is helping to clean out driveways and intersections affected by the winging back of the snow.
But there’s only so far the snow can be pushed, he explained. There are stonewalls and trees aplenty in town, but his crew is doing their best to keep the roads as wide as possible.