BERNARDS TWP., NJ - Bernards Township's Department and Public Works, working in cooperation with contractors, have had no problem removing 24 inches of snow from roads and public property in the past, especially if that snowfall had accumulated over more than a day's time.
But the 30-inch blizzard, which fell pretty much entirely on Jan. 23, was a trial for both public employees and their equipment, as well as contractors who just couldn't move mounds of snow that might then just blow back onto cleared areas.
This past week, officials took a look at how to prepare for another blizzard, even though those of the magnitude and swift snow accumulation - coupled with winds that caused constant drifting in 2016's big storm - seldom occur.
Handling future storms
Among the proposals for ways to be best prepared for such massive storms in the future are increasing the size of municipal plows and truck sizes, as those vehicles come up for replacement, and a GPS system to monitor contractor snowplows.
In January's storm, the township's DPW worked around the clock from Friday through the weekend of the snowstorm, officials said soon afterward. Nevertheless, both township workers and contractors struggled to fully clear some streets around the township, and some smaller plows were unable to handle the volume of snow.
"I thought they did a great job...working under extreme circumstances," Township Administrator Bruce McArthur said at last week's Township Committee meeting.
Township Public Works Director Pat Monaco fulfilled the Township Committee's request by presenting a detailed report on snow operations during Jan. 22 to 25. The report is posted on the township website.
'Jonas' cost Bernards Township $297,000
The efforts surrounding the storm cost the township a total of $297,000, counting materials and labor costs, the report said.
[Updated] This week, McArthur said in an email that as a result of the result of inclement weather following the blizzard, Bernards Township likely has spent an estimated $360,000 to $375,000 cleaning up after winter storms.
Some of the proposals in the report will become part of municipal budget discussions for 2016.
Monaco said the public works department has requested the replacement of one of the municipally-owned large trucks this year. "If approved we may be able to get in our fleet by the end of 2016," he said. The plow on the vehicle would be 11 feet wide and somewhere from 41 to 46 inches high, he added.
"We are already exploring a GEO Client Public works complaint Portal system, whereby residents will be able to communicate via [the] web," Monaco said in an email later in the week. "We are also looking into GPS system to monitor contractor vehicles."
One of the major difficulties that plows encountered during the snowstorm was trying to maneuver around cars left parked on streets.
Although there is an overnight ban on street parking during certain months, enforcing those ordinances would not help if snow clearing efforts were taking place during the day, Monaco said. "A simple 'no parking when roads are snow covered…' is preferred," he said in the email.
One idea tossed around was asking residents to shovel snow from sidewalks along their property - but the Township Committee firmly nixed that suggestion during a discussion at the meeting.
In the past, the Township Committee abandoned a plan to ask residents to shovel sidewalks that were along walking routes to schools.
Requiring residents to shovel sidewalks along their properties would be "inequitable" and a particular hardship for elderly residents, said Township Committeeman John Malay.
However, residents did do a good job in this past storm of fulfilling a requirement to clear snow from around fire hydrants, said Deputy Mayor Carolyn Gaziano.
She said an initiative asking residents to take selfies of themselves after shoveling the hydrants had proved successful.
Despite difficulties, all of the township-plowed sections of town were open (by at least one lane) by the early morning hours of Monday, within 24 hours after the storm had ended, the report said.
On Monday morning, all municipal facilities, municipal lots, commuter bus lot, and the Lyons and the Basking Ridge train stations were open for business, Monaco said in the report.