The snow this winter has been brutal. No sooner do we come inside after shoveling and salting our way to freedom that a new snowstorm is forecasted. Frustration abounds, yet we need not worry that …
The snow this winter has been brutal. No sooner do we come inside after shoveling and salting our way to freedom that a new snowstorm is forecasted. Frustration abounds, yet we need not worry that the roads will be plowed as quickly as possible. If the streets and highways aren’t plowed, it’s because the storm is still raging.
If the plows aren’t out, don’t go out.
The hard work of plowing falls to a six-member team from the Tusten Highway Department. During the worst of winter weather, the town garage on Route 97 becomes command central for highway superintendent Don Neiger and his team of five workers: Steve, Rocco, Sean, Pat and Corey.
Together, they’re the Plow Patrol. The Snow Squad. Our very own Tusten Blade Runners. It’s easy to imagine them heading out pre-dawn with a steamy cup of coffee, “Snowblind” by Black Sabbath blaring on the radio, blade down, scraping the roads all the while knowing that more snow will fall.
The team starts at 4 a.m. on snow days. They often end up working 15-hour shifts sanding and cleaning up more than 60 miles of roads throughout Tusten, only to start early the next day if the snow keeps falling. Thanks to their efforts, life goes on. Kids can get to school. Workers can get to their jobs. The town can go about business as safely as possible.
The storm may end, but the work doesn’t. Major roadways and bridges require drifts be removed for safety reasons. Tons of snow are moved to remote areas via dump trucks and front-loaders to help ensure already limited public parking can continue as slush-free as possible.
Working full-time, year-round, when not plowing, the team is responsible for road repairs, equipment maintenance, patching potholes and cutting back brush and trees that might impede roadways.
The annual snow removal budget of $100,000 is stretched to the breaking point on years such as the one we’re currently having. Magnesium chloride, sand, salt and replacement parts for the fleet of Ford 350 and 550s and front loaders are kept at the ready 24/7.
Despite the hard work, these coveted jobs inspire long-term loyalty. The two people most recently hired were brought in as replacements for retiring workers. Don Neiger, the supervisor, is in an elected position and will be running again in the next election this November.
Thanks, Plow Patrol.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got to go shovel again.