DPW earns mixed reviews on snow removal

Staff Writer

Staff Writer

RED BANK — Those who are dreaming of a white Christmas should keep one thing in mind.

Snow is expensive.

Fees associated with last week’s snow cleanup cost the borough nearly $3,000 — and that’s just a drop in the bucket compared to other high expenditures accumulated by the Department of Public Works (DPW) this year, according to councilman and chairman of the borough’s finance committee, John Curley.

At the Dec. 23 municipal meeting, the council authorized a $385,000 emergency appropriation to cover those unexpected expenditures, including over $100,000 in overtime fees associated with DPW duties like recycling, landfill and brush removal. The emergency appropriation will also cover $140,000 in overtime for the police department.

The snow removal cost the borough a lot of money and the DPW, which is under the jurisdiction of Deputy Borough Administrator Gary Watson, did a "rather poor job," Curley said.

"A lot of residents were complaining that the downtown got preferential treatment and the rest of the town didn’t get a fair shake," the councilman said. "Red Bank needs a qualified manager who knows how to micro-manage a municipal budget, not run it like a candy store."

Even Freddy Boynton, a 30-year borough DPW employee who plans to retire his post at the end of the month, said the department’s snow removal performance left a lot to be desired.

"The place looks terrible," he said. "My daughter was driving her car down on Monmouth Street this morning and she was swerving all over the place."

According to Boynton, department members did not adequately prepare for the storm.

"I was down on Sunset Avenue the morning before the snow started, and there was not enough sand and there was not enough salt," he said. "Gary Watson is a retired cop. He knows nothing about running a Public Works Department."

But at last week’s municipal meeting, Watson told the mayor and council that the department took all the necessary precautions.

"We tried to prepare for the storm," he said. "The plowing went on from about 2 p.m. on Friday, throughout the day on Saturday, and we rotated through the night. We had 12 complaints from residents, which I think is pretty good considering the number of residents."

However, after receiving a high volume of complaints from the downtown business owners, Watson sent the plows out again on Monday night to plow White, Monmouth, Mechanic and Canal streets.

That’s how the overtime fees were accumulated, according to Curley.

But despite icy roads, snow-trapped vehicles, and gallons of slush and brown snow flooding the White Street Parking Lot on Tuesday morning, Dec. 9, Mayor Edward McKenna said he thought the Department of Public Works did a terrific job.

"The men were in really great spirits. They stood up to the task. They did an excellent, excellent job," he said.

Curley, however, recommended that the department be privatized.

"That would help us avoid absenteeism and the personnel problems associated with the DPW," he said.