Problems involving slushy or snow-caked streets frequently leave Warren residents or motorists grumbling, whether due to poor planning, scheduling or manpower, equipment or any combination of the three.
In recent years, local residents, city officials and even this newspaper’s editorial board have demanded answers and accountability for Warren road cleanup after heavy storms. In past instances, evidence has shown snow remaining far longer on Warren streets than on the streets of adjacent towns.
After a big storm last month, we used this space once again to call on city officials to find ways to plan better for snow removal and storm cleanup.
We applaud city leaders for taking action.
Warren Safety-Service Director Eddie Colbert has proposed the purchase of five new snowplow trucks for the city using American Rescue Plan Act funds, and he’s talked about plans for hiring more drivers.
Last week an ordinance to make the snowplow truck purchase a reality was placed into second reading. Some council members are seeking more information about the more than $1 million purchase, with each truck, including plows and salt equipment, costing about $203,000.
We applaud the efforts to grow Warren’s snow removal equipment. We also understand concerns expressed by those on council to move cautiously, especially considering the enormous cost involved.
What we are most pleased about is the timing of these important conversations.
Councilwoman Cheryl Saffold, D-6th Ward, last week questioned the quantity of trucks needed, and she sought answers about the condition of the current fleet.
Councilman Ron White, D-7th Ward, wants more details about the price of snowplows.
Saffold and Councilwoman Helen Rucker, D-at Large, questioned whether the city’s trained manpower is sufficient to operate the new plow trucks.
These all are legitimate questions, and we are glad to see our elected leaders putting their heads together to solve the city’s snow removal problems.
Warren’s snow removal has been poor, to say the least. Indeed, action is needed to fix the problem, and Warren’s leaders are right to seek this information now. If better snow removal materials or additional plow trucks or other equipment are needed, now is the time to address it.
Warren should keep in mind that it took neighboring Youngstown about a year to receive snow-plow trucks it had ordered, delayed due to back orders and parts shortages.
As far as personnel, officials also should research whether enough workload exists to justify employing additional operations department workers year-round. If that is the case, then they should not delay. Ensuring enough workers trained and licensed to drive the trucks is equally vital.
Further, to help provide motorists and residents with some peace of mind about plowing operations, we suggest Warren borrow a lesson from nearby Youngstown.
There, the city installed GPS tracking devices in its snowplow trucks, allowing the public to monitor where the vehicles are in real time, as well as find out when streets last were plowed.
Implementation of a similar program in Warren could help keep residents in tune with snowplow operations, not to mention triggering improved coverage plans by keeping city workers and supervisors more accountable to the residents who pay their salaries.
Another question that officials might consider would be whether equipment to help clear sidewalks would be a logical purchase.
While we understand property owners are obligated by ordinance to clear their sidewalks, we also know that this is a never-ending battle. Once the roadways are cleared, turning city operations workers to sidewalk clearing via use of smaller tractors or other motorized equipment could be worth exploring.
Undoubtedly, snow removal is a critical service that local government must be prepared to handle.
We are glad to see our leaders talking about it now, well ahead of next winter.
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