EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

Haverhill

January 25, 2013

Haverhill gears up for fast storm response

But mayor worries public will complain about scandalized Highway Department

HAVERHILL — When snow fell during the morning commute on Jan. 16, parents complained that the city failed to close schools for the day.

Officials said no snow was falling just before buses took to their routes. By the time they were on the road and snow was making streets slippery, it was too late to get sanding trucks out in time. More than a dozen vehicles, including a school bus, crashed within about an hour due to the slippery conditions.

To keep this from happening again, Mayor James Fiorentini said that when a snow or ice storm is predicted to hit at commuter time, the city will station sanding trucks around Haverhill so they can hit the streets quickly when the precipitation begins.

When the mayor announced the plan this week, he also said he is concerned residents might see the trucks parked on the side of roads and doing nothing, and wonder why.

“We’ve changed our procedures,” Fiorentini said. “We’re going to station 10 sanding trucks around the city to get the sand down more quickly, although we do expect complaints by people who might see trucks parked and not doing anything.”

The mayor said the city has staged snow plows in strategic areas in advance of a storm for years. That has resulted in complaints by residents.

“When people see a bunch of plows (parked at the side of the road) they start calling,” Fiorentini said.

The city’s Highway Department has suffered from an image problem in recent years, with criminal charges against former longtime Highway Superintendent James Flaherty and his son Kevin, a former inspector at the department. They were both found guilty of charges related to them using department resources for personal gain in their private paving business.

In the wake of the scandal, the public’s faith in the Highway Department and how it was run was shaken. The city installed GPS devices in department trucks to track them. Several department workers were disciplined for using sick time or being on the city clock while they were working on private Flaherty paving jobs.

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