Deficient Roads Will Go Unplowed This Winter
By: Mary Stanley
The Department of Public Works has created a list of private roads that they will not be plowing this winter unless residents there bring their roads up to snuff.
According to Department of Public Works foreman Stefan E. Masse, residents living on these private roads were notified back in February and March that specific improvements needed to be made, if they wanted their roads cleared of snow this upcoming winter season.
“We gave them nine months’ notice to make the improvements,” Mr. Masse said.
And now the deadline for making improvements is hovering like a large tree branch covered in heavy wet snow hanging across a road.
Residents have until tomorrow to make the fixes and then petition the town to have their road removed from the “do not plow” list.
Once a petition is made, Mr. Masse said engineer Sean P. Harrington will inspect the road to ensure that the road is up to standards.
According to the department’s winter maintenance policy, which was adopted in 1994 and reviewed in 2009, “private roads will not be plowed unless they meet acceptable plowable road standards.”
Mr. Masse said, in some cases, bringing a road up to acceptable standards may involve just trimming back some overgrown vegetation or cutting a low-hanging tree branch so that a tall plow or truck can safely navigate the road.
Such is the case for Fox Trot Run, off Popple Bottom Road.
In March, resident Beth E. Russell, along with her neighbors living on that road, received notification from the Department of Public Works informing them that low-hanging tree limbs and overgrown brush must be cut back before the road would be considered plowable.
Ms. Russell said she approached the neighbor who owns the property with the offending tree and brush and offered to do the pruning and cutting herself.
“The neighbor said no and that they would take care of it,” Ms. Russell said.
But nothing has been done to the overgrown vegetation or the tree limb and Fox Trot Run remains on the list of roads banned from receiving snow-clearing services.
“If the road is not plowed, how am I going to get to work? How is my son going to get to school?” she asked.
“It only takes one neighbor who does not want the road plowed to ruin it for the rest of the street,” said Mr. Masse.
Mr. Masse explained that low-hanging tree limbs can create havoc for plow drivers since the snow can weigh the limb down, causing damage to the lights on the truck. He said in some cases, the snow will cause the large limb to break off completely, blocking the road.
“The drivers might have to move it with their trucks to pass through the road and that can damage equipment,” he said.
He said overgrown vegetation can make it difficult for plow drivers to see around a corner, especially during a blinding snowstorm, making it unsafe to pass through. Vegetation that is so overgrown that it narrows the width of the road also leaves no place for plow drivers to put the snow they are clearing.
While bringing Fox Trot Run up to acceptable standards is a simple and inexpensive fix, that is not the case for all roads on the DPW’s do-not-plow list. In some cases, he said the roads have large potholes that must be filled or some roads need to be widened. “Craft Road needs an adequate turnaround area for the plow,” Mr. Masse said.
Mr. Masse said if a private road is not plowed and emergency vehicles need to get down the road, the fire or police departments will contact his office to clear the road for the emergency vehicle.
He said if school buses cannot get down a private road because it is on the do-not-plow list, then the bus company will have to change its route.
“There are a lot of private roads that we have never plowed. The residents have never petitioned us and don’t want us to plow them,” Mr. Masse said.
The 62 roads identified as not meeting acceptable standards can be found on the town’s website, www.sandwichmass.org, by clicking on the link for the Department of Public Works. Mr. Masse said many residents have made the recommended improvements and petitioned the town to have their roads removed from the list. He said 22 roads have already been removed from the list.