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City leaders explain poor snow removal

Posted at 5:30 PM, Feb 15, 2019
and last updated 2019-02-15 18:30:44-05

At least four days after our most recent snow storm, many side streets in Milwaukee are still posing a danger. Piles of snow are creating narrower roadways and messy corners for drivers and pedestrians to maneuver.

A lot of people are fed up.

“The mounds of snow on most streets, that have hardened now, and are too far from curbs, and blocking streets and walkways, are really difficult to deal with,” said Bill Hitt. “The streets are really cruddy here. It’s like they just left it all piled up.”

The Department of Public Works says there are reasons why plowing wasn’t done as effectively in some places this week.

Fifty-eight plow trucks had issues or broken equipment during snow operations this week according to DPW. They also revealed that they're short about 45 plow drivers. And, the drivers it currently employs, have no more than five years of experience.

“Apparently they’re having a hard time recruiting drivers and laborers for what are pretty good jobs with full benefits and family-supporting wages,” Ald. Bauman said. “So all of us alderman are scratching our heads, wondering when they were going to tell us all this. We didn’t know about these specific problems.”

Ald. Bauman is proposing that the city rehire some retired plow drivers.

“Some of them have indicated a willingness to come back to work part-time, sort of in the form of a reserve force,” Ald. Bauman said. “I’ll be introducing a resolution to explore doing exactly that at our next city council meeting at the end of this month. There are some legal and logistical issues because these retired workers are on city pensions. But our police department staffs some positions with retirees, so there has to be a way.”

Bringing back some retirees on a freelance basis could help with current inexperienced plow staff and a shortage of workers. But improving failing plow trucks, or buying new ones, is going to require money and city budget changes.

The Department of Public Works declined an interview Friday.