March roars in with back-to-back storms
Published 9:20 am, Friday, March 16, 2018
FAIRFIELD — After a relatively mild winter, the month of March is living up to its reputation, with one nor’easter after another hitting the area and another snow storm forecast for next week.
There’s been snow in December, January and February. It has driven some parents crazy, provided a steady income stream for private snow plowers, and most likely increased the number of employees who have worked from home this month. Facebook posts looking for recommendations for a “tree guy” or electrician may have been at an all-time high.
It’s also taken its toll on the school calendar, with seven snow days so far.
When the school calendar was originally adopted, June 12 was the last day of school. Now, it is June 21, barring any more school cancellations. The first eight snow days extend the length of the school year, and push back the dates of high school graduations. Any more than eight days, and the days will be made up by taking time off spring vacation, starting April 9.
The long-lasting winter is also having an impact on high school sports.
The spring FCIAC sports calendar is supposed to kick off Saturday, but it’s going to be at least another week until the fields can be used, Public Works Superintendent Scott Bartlett said.
“Everybody’s not happy,” he said, and added if the snow predicted for next Tuesday happens, that could delay field use another week.
“March is still a little early” for the start of his department’s other spring activities, but, Bartlett said, “I think we’re in pretty good shape.”
The DPW has been able to do brush and tree work and is not yet falling behind. April is when the department begins street sweeping and when asphalt plants are once again up and running to allow for road maintenance and repair. But if more snow clearing is necessary, Bartlett said, “it could start to impact plans.”
Money wise, the winter’s storms don’t seem to have made too bad a dent in the budget.
“Overall, we are in good shape,” Public Works Director Joseph Michelangelo said, but added they are still reviewing the numbers. There is $250,000 budgeted for snow-removal overtime, but storm costs also include private contractors hired to help.
Michelangelo said the department’s overall budget can absorb the amount spent so far on the nor’easters and the tree damage that resulted without having to request any money from the town’s contingency account.
After last week’s nor’easter, where heavy snow and strong winds brought down tree limbs and wires and left some trees completely uprooted, First Selectman Mike Tetreau said he wants to see changes in United Illuminating’s policy regarding “make safe” crews. Those crews work with DPW employees to safely remove downed wires and trees, allowing repair crews to come in and restore power.
The March 7 storm left over 150 roads closed due to downed wires and trees, and at one point saw 1,803 customers in town without electricity. When Fire Chief Denis McCarthy contacted UI around 7 p.m. on March 8, as the storm wound down, the town’s emergency operations manager was told the “make safe” crews only worked from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Town officials finally got UI to send a single “make safe” crew to remove wires and work overnight.
“We will be meeting with our state delegation to review our experiences during this storm and provide our feedback on the UI protocols,” Tetreau said.