BOSTON (State House News Service) — While municipalities around Massachusetts try to recruit enough snowplow operators before the first big winter storm hits, officials in Boston say they're confident they have sufficient staffing to clear the city's 850 lane miles when the snow flies.
"Currently we're well-staffed. We have yet to see that loss of personnel that people are talking about statewide. But we also have to keep an eye on that as this winter unfolds," Superintendent of Streets Michael Brohel said Monday at Mayor Michelle Wu's winter preparation press conference.
Many Massachusetts municipalities, as well as the MBTA, dealt with a shortage of school bus drivers this fall and have been ratcheting up financial incentives in hopes of avoiding a similar labor shortage when it comes to plow drivers. Brohel said Boston has nine snow-clearing contractors and that all nine have given the city "firm commitments" that they will have the necessary drivers to man their plows.
"We tend to pay more than the smaller towns and cities across the state...I think it helps that we do pay that premium, that we have overtime," he said.
And if the city has to put its fleet of plows into operation during the school week, students in Boston can most likely look forward to snow days rather than an unplanned day of remote learning, Wu said Monday, dispelling the thought that the rise of remote learning might spell the end of snow day school cancelations.
"We've been having conversations with the state about the possibility for remote learning, especially as it comes to COVID-19 and closures or other instances," Wu, who also spoke Monday about the "holiday surge in COVID-19 positivity" the city is experiencing, said. "So far, we have been encouraged and are encouraging our schools to really focus on in-person learning. So as we head into snowstorms, the plan right now, as I understand it, is that there will be snow days rather than remote days."
Written by Colin A. Young, State House News Service