winter weather

As First Snowfall Arrives, Many Mass. Communities Are Still Short Plow Drivers

As New England inches toward winter, many communities are still having a hard getting fully staffed up for the real winter storms.

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The overnight wintry storm turned out to perhaps be more of a reminder that winter is coming, rather than a true first test for snow plows.

Like many other places in Massachusetts, snow was sticking on the grass in Fitchburg, but not so much on sidewalks or roads. Plows weren't really needed after all.

The salt and sand trucks were ready, but in most areas, they weren't needed either because pretreating the road doesn't do much when there's rain. The salt and sand would likely just wash away.

As snow begins to fall in parts of New England, some towns are offering bonuses to incentivize people to plow.

Fitchburg Mayor Stephen DiNatale said Tuesday the city anticipated the warmer asphalt this time of year would help melt any accumulation, and those predictions turned out to be the case in most spots.

But as New England inches toward winter, many communities are still having a hard time getting fully staffed up for the real winter storms.

Franklin's Department of Public Works director, Brutus Cantoreggi, said they're down about 20% from the number of plow drivers they'll need to be fully staffed this winter. That's even with a bump in pay and $2,000 bonuses. The rising cost associated with running the vehicles is believed to be contributing to this trend.

"Especially it’s tough for small contractors, maybe landscapers that have two or three vehicles, their insurance went up really high," Cantoreggi said. "The larger contractors they already have the insurance, but the small guy – that’s what’s really hurting."

With a major nor'easter looming, several communities in Massachusetts are facing a shortage of snow plow drivers.

Other municipalities said they're not worried yet, because there's still time to get more plows on board.

Meanwhile in Fitchburg, Mayor DiNatale said they’re staffed up and ready to go. But with everything going up in cost, DPW budgets are remain a concern heading into the winter.

"Last winter we didn’t get a lot of snow, but we got a lot of ice, so it’s a drain on your snow and ice removal budget," the mayor said. "People think because you’re not out plowing, doesn’t cost any money, yeah but those sanding trucks are out there and the people working them are getting overtime, so it’s a challenge."

Watch out for wet, slick roads as you head into work Wednesday morning.

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