|Pittsfield Plows Spark Residential Frustration |
|By Sabrina Damms, iBerkshires Staff|
05:31PM / Wednesday, January 25, 2023
|The East Side Cafe is one of two businesses damaged by plowing in the last storm. |
A screenshot taken from a video of Jan. 14's accident.
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — The Department of Public Works has been under fire the last few weeks by residents on social media expressing their frustrations on recent snowplowing efforts including property damage and a snowplow accident.
Following the snowstorm on Monday, iconic pizza place East Side Cafe at 378 Newell St. blamed its smashed front window on rocks and debris tossed up by a speeding city plow.
The cafe took to Facebook requesting information on damages that broke "irreplaceable and sentimental signs," the post said.
According to the post, the homes and storefronts next door also had snow and dirt on their facades as well as ripped window screens with snow compacted within.
Owner Paul Capitanio said, through an employee, that an
old Budweiser sign was also broken. An update on the post
said City Hall and Commissioner of Public Works and Utilities Ricardo Morales have been extremely responsive and thanked Ward 3 Councilor Kevin Sherman for his help.
According to the restaurant owner, Morales has been very nice throughout the whole process and said that it is just an unfortunate situation the storm caused.
The restaurant will be open as repairs are made to the broken window.
Morales said different types of storms bring different challenges which require plows to drive at the different speeds adequate for dealing with different types of snow. The speed the employee was driving was not the right speed, he said.
He said he's not seen this level of damage in the past four years he has been commissioner.
Typical complaints that the department receives in the winter is regarding plow trucks putting snow back on the sidewalk or driveways that were freshly shoveled, he said.
Whenever there are instances of property damage, including mailboxes getting knocked down the department works with the homeowners to resolve the situation, he said.
Although snow is a factor it is not the reason for the incident, Morales said. The employee was driving too fast and the drivers should know and have been trained to drive at slower speeds for the different types of snow.
"It's very unfortunate when we hear this, we take pride in our response to snow events and we have to do it in a safe way, not just for our drivers on the road but everyone else around our drivers," he said.
"And it is not acceptable to have our plows being driven at higher speeds than necessary for the conditions on the road."
It is important for the department's drivers to know when conditions call for the need to drive slower whether it is weather related or based on the geometric design of the area, he said.
The employee involved in the incident headed into the Elm Street area, where another business reported damage to their window.
Morales has met with both business owners. The department takes situations like this very seriously and has taken the proper course of action with the employee involved, he said.
Another incident involving a different worker was caught on camera and posted to the 411 Pittsfield Open Forum on Facebook. The video, since taken down, shows a city plow hitting a car broadside after running a stop sign at the Onota and Linden Street intersection.
On Saturday, Jan. 14, at approximately 10:59 a.m., the city plow was westbound on Linden where it "rolled" through the stop sign colliding with a 2007 Mazda, according to the police report.
Some of the information was redacted, but the driver of the Mazda appeared to report minor injuries and was taken for medical care by an unknown individual. The car was towed from the scene and the operator of the plow truck was found at fault.
Although Morales did not make it to the scene in time he did pull the information on the truck's GPS that confirmed what was shown in the video, that the plow truck seemed to be at fault. The data also showed that the employee was traveling at approximately 20 miles per hour, Morales said.
Despite the failure to drive carefully at that intersection, the low speed of the plow helped reduce the effects of that coalition, Morales said.
The department was immediately made aware of the accident and has taken proper actions with the employee to address the situation, he said.