Snow removal operations in Lehighton during this winter season were given a poor mark last night at a meeting of Lehighton Borough Council.
"Lehighton used to be the shining star for cleaning streets," said police Sergeant Joseph Lawrence. "The last two years we were among the worst."
So serious is the situation that council President Grant Hunsicker said a meeting of department heads needs to be called to discuss the matter. Mayor Donald Rehrig is pushing for an ordinance which would require "odd-even parking" during snowstorms, and some council members supported the suggestion.
A borough maintenance worker said one problem which exists is that overtime has been eliminated, which puts a crimp into weekend snow removal efforts.
"Have they been told they can't have overtime?" asked council member Melissa Ebbert.
"We don't have the money," responded Hunsicker, adding he's worried that paying overtime will be a burden to the taxpayers.
The matter first was brought up by the owner of a windows store on First Street who presented large photos to back up his complaints about snow removal in the business district.
He said a snowstorm occurred on Jan. 26 – a Wednesday – and snow removal didn't occur until the following Monday.
He said police were issuing parking tickets, and showed a photo of a woman trying to deposit money into a meter while standing on ice.
The lack of snow removal "is driving business away," he said.
Borough engineer Bruce Steigerwalt said he feels snow ordinances should be revised.
"The worst thing you ever did was take away odd-even parking," said the borough worker.
He explained that not only is overtime eliminated, meaning snow removal doesn't occur on weekends, but posting for snow removal must occur 24 hours before the snow can be cleared. This gives people time to move vehicles.
"I feel odd-even parking is the way to go," commented Mayor Rehrig.
Hunsicker was reluctant to back odd-even parking, stating, "There are too many cars."
He said plowing is difficult when people don't move their vehicles, but added that forcing them to move them for plowing will cause other problems. He said there are streets where parking occurs on only one side, making it impossible to have staggered parking allowances there.
"Not having odd-even parking has not resolved any issues," said Ebbert. "It made it worse."
Councilman Scott Rehrig said it used to be that every department – maintenance workers, light and power, and water authority – would assist in plowing efforts. He said, "The water department says if they get the call, they will come out and plow. They claim they never get the call."
He added that he would prefer paying overtime to borough workers for snow removal than to hire outside firms to come in and haul it.
Steigerwalt suggested that the borough might compile a list of prices or solicit bids from independent haulers in case they are needed.
Also discussed was a letter that Alton Steigerwalt, public works superinendent, wrote to the council.
He said, "This year as in the past I have requested from the mayor and police department to have a part-time officer assist the Public Works Department in the streets after they were plowed. He added that piles of snow are in the line of sight at intersections due to private plow operations, and large piles are being left in parking spaces and at fire hydrants.
He wrote, "As of this date I do not know of any officer being brought out to cite offenses as they happen."
The letter added, "If our ordinance is not clear on what can or cannot be cited, I am asking council to have it corrected before next season if possible."
Hunsicker urged that a meeting is needed of department heads and police to discuss the matter.
"Do it now and not wait until July to think about it," said Mayor Rehrig.
On a related matter, Alton Steigerwalt urged a new salt shed be constructed so that a full year's supply of salt and cinders can be stored.
He said in his letter to council, "This winter season was a challenging one for the pulbic works department, not only in removing snow and ice from our streets and sidewalks, but also trying to maintain enough salt and cinders in stock for upcoming storms. Salt orders were placed one week ahead in trying to maintain a stockpile and luckily we received it most of the time on the day of the storm."
He added, "We did have a couple of storms that we only cindered hills and intersections due to shortage of material."