Community Government Opinion

Blizzard Cleanup Brings out the Best–and Worst–in People

In spite of the obvious inconveniences caused by the massive amount of snow that fell over the weekend, most residents have been appreciative or at least understanding of the borough’s cleanup efforts, which have continued nonstop since the final flakes fell Saturday night. But a few have called out the borough for its snow removal.

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A Hellertown Department of Public Works plow truck clears snow in the borough after more than 2 feet of it fell during the Blizzard of 2016 Saturday.

A Hellertown Department of Public Works plow truck clears snow in the borough after more than two-and-a-half feet of it fell during the Blizzard of 2016 Saturday.

 

 

Note: The Borough of Hellertown has announced that the snow emergency in effect since Friday, Jan. 22 at 9 p.m. will be lifted effective at 6 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 27, 2016. “Public works crews will continue to remove snow the remainder of the week,” the announcement said.

The Blizzard of 2016 has been a historic snowstorm in every sense, as demonstrated by the fact that Hellertown remains under a snow emergency nearly five days after the storm struck. Snow removal has not been as ‘clockwork’ as it normally is after a snowstorm, but that shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone. There has never been a 30-plus inch snowfall here before, since record-keeping began nearly a century ago. And the borough has ramped up its efforts, even bringing in subcontractors to help with snow removal on Main Street in the downtown area.

HPW Truck

In spite of the obvious inconvenience caused by the massive amount of snow that fell, most residents have been appreciative or at least understanding of the borough’s cleanup efforts, which have continued nearly nonstop since the final flakes fell Saturday night.

Some are even showing their gratitude by donating Girl Scout cookies to the workers who’ve labored long hours under difficult and even dangerous conditions.

That’s a small token of appreciation for an often thankless job; a way of recognizing that while many of us had the opportunity to be snuggled up at home enjoying cozy snow days filled with family time and hot cocoa, someone else was out on the roads and away from his family for hours on end, day after day–so we could get out and back to life as normal as soon as possible in the storm’s wake. (See this piece published on the blog Inside Out for more perspective on the life of a “Plow Guy.”)

Sure, this is a job for the public works employees. It is their job. They are getting paid to do it. But it is not one most of us would want, or could do better if we tried.

Is every street, alley and sidewalk in the borough going to be cleared to perfection in the timeframe we wanted it to be? No, but that’s also the case in every town and city that’s been affected by this epic blizzard. If your street or alley isn’t yet clear, you can always grab a shovel and lend a hand. Knock on a few neighbors’ doors to get them involved. You are, after all, a town stakeholder in addition to being a taxpayer. Being a taxpayer doesn’t mean, “I don’t have to lift a finger.” It never did.

It is unfortunate that for a small minority of residents, instead of an opportunity to come together, the blizzard has been an opportunity to see the glass as ‘half empty.’

In a post published on the borough of Hellertown’s Facebook page Sunday night, Padraig O’Neill Stimpson called Hellertown’s plow crew “a joke.”

“I am originally from Boston, deal with this snow a lot, and have been plowing my whole life,” he wrote. “I just got home from being out on the road since Friday and got stuck trying to get to my house due to your lack of snow removal.” Stimpson also criticized crews for leaving to go home after doing a “half ass job.”

Another borough resident, Christopher Jon Michael Petruno, posted a photo of a snow pile with the caption: “Thanks for leaving this four-foot high pile of snow in the middle of Ruch alley. I know you guys are busy… But rather than send a truck down my main road four times another pass down here would have been nice. Your citizens rely on the alleyways for means to get around as well, especially when some of them park in the alley during snow emergencies.”

Frustration is always going to run high for some people during a weather event that prevents them from living their lives the way they normally do, but it’s important to keep things in perspective and realize that, first of all, Hellertown is a small borough, with limited manpower and resources compared to larger cities.

The borough plow crews have done their best under a set of incredibly challenging, never-before-seen circumstances. They care about you and your family, and want to help everyone get out of their homes and get back to life as normal as quickly as possible. Don’t you think they want to get back to their normal lives, too?

Calling their efforts “half ass” and saying you can do a better job isn’t a productive response in any case. If you think you can do a better job, more power to you, but please drop the entitlement attitude. If you have a legitimate criticism of snow removal in your part of town, address it with the borough directly and constructively–not in a hateful Facebook post. There’s no need to be rude to the crews that have already sacrificed so much time (and sleep) on your family’s behalf, whether you appreciate it or not.

Thankfully most residents have been able to put this storm in its proper perspective, make the best of it, and understand that the public works department has done the best it can do with the resources it has.

This comment was posted on the borough’s Facebook page Tuesday by Saucon Valley Bikes owner Steve LaBrake (a New York snow belt native), and as of Wednesday had received more than 100 likes. Well said, Steve.

“I was just reading a lot of negative posts on this page. I would like to thank the borough for their time and effort. Can they do a better job? I think we can ALL do a better job. Every time it snows, the situation is going to be a bit different, every time it’s going to be a learning curve. Patience people! This is a big snow for this area and this small municipality that doesn’t have a ton of resources to make this happen overnight. Meanwhile, work on the snow removal yourselves to better the situation!”

Snow plows were put the test by the massive blizzard. Road crews have been working around the clock to clear the roads in Saucon Valley.

Snow plows were put the test by the massive blizzard. Road crews have been working around the clock to clear the roads in Saucon Valley.

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About the author

Josh Popichak

Josh Popichak is the owner, publisher and editor of Saucon Source. A Lehigh Valley native, he's covered local news since 2005 and previously worked for Berks-Mont News and AOL/Patch. Contact him at josh@sauconsource.com.

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