MILWAUKEE -- Two Milwaukee aldermen and some residents have taken issue with the city of Milwaukee's Department of Public Works over plowing efforts during and after the winter storm that dumped nine inches of snow in Milwaukee on Monday, December 28th. They say the painful wait for plows is "inexcusable."
Nearly 24 hours after the snow stopped falling, FOX6 News on Tuesday, December 29th found streets in Milwaukee that hadn't been plowed.
DPW officials held a news conference at 2:00 p.m. Tuesday, December 29th to discuss the plowing efforts and respond to the criticism. They said the problem is the wet, heavy snow we saw fall on Monday takes more time to clear.
Some Milwaukee aldermen say that's a weak excuse.
FOX6 News found drivers stuck near 11th and Capitol Tuesday -- a spot where at least 15 vehicles got stuck.
"They just try to make this turn and go up through here and they just can`t do it," Herbert Renfro said. "This salt truck came through, but the salt truck never let their plow down. He came right on through and made a left turn and left."
At Locust and Farwell, a plow had come by, but Max Kittleson was plowed in.
"The only thing to do is just start shoveling and see what happens," Kittleson said.
And well into the evening rush hour on Tuesday, FOX6 News found drivers getting stuck near 88th and Burleigh.
"This street has not been plowed at all," Jim Holte said. "This is a highly dense residential neighborhood and nobody can get in or out of their properties because of the way the streets are."
At least three Milwaukee aldermen were critical of the DPW's response to this storm: Alderman Jim Bohl, Alderman Bob Donovan and Alderman Mark Borkowski.
"This isn`t the drivers` fault. This is the DPW administration that dropped the ball on this and seemingly they look for excuses. This is inexcusable," Bohl said.
These aldermen say the city hires an additional 80 private plow drivers to help out when the snow falls. The aldermen say they learned the DPW had just a fraction of that for Monday's storm.
"They were to have 80 plow drivers for the event. They only had 18. We were caught with our pants down, ladies and gentlemen, and it is not right," Borkowski said.
Alderman Bohl and Alderman Donovan issued statements on this issue on Tuesday afternoon.
Bohl's statement reads as follows:
I’m incredibly disappointed in the poor results that the Department of Public Works has to show for itself in its response to yesterday’s winter storm. There’s only one word for this degree of failure: inexcusable.
As I drove through the 5th Aldermanic District on my way to work this morning, the extent of the disappointing results was obvious. On half of the residential side streets I passed, there was no evidence of a plow having made even one pass to clear a path for traffic. With nine inches of snow on the ground, make no mistake about it—many of those snow-filled streets had people who were stranded.
While I understand that this was a heavier snowfall than normal, and that the timing was less than ideal, our Department of Public Works administration needs to do a better job of ensuring that our hardworking plow drivers are properly staffed and properly supplemented with necessary contracted staffing to get the job done. The taxpaying citizens of Milwaukee deserve no less. My constituents are furious at the lack of results this morning, and so am I.
One would think that the DPW administration would have learned their lesson. It was just in January that I requested a communication file that called the administration before the Public Works Committee, where they could explain their poor performance during the first two winter storms of last season.
I will be requesting their appearance before the Public Works Committee yet again, after this latest storm. The taxpayers are owed an explanation for this poor service, and an accounting of steps that will be taken to ensure that this failure is not repeated.
Donovan's statement reads as follows:
It’s been a wet, wintry morning on the South Side of Milwaukee. Those who were able got dug out as quickly as possible, and many stuck around to help their neighbors do the same.
However, once they finished this process, many of my constituents were left to wonder—what now? Their cars were freed and their sidewalks were shoveled, but the city’s plow trucks had yet to make their first pass to free up a drivable lane, and residents had no way out.
The Department of Public Works response to yesterday’s storm was absolutely terrible, and it appears as though DPW was caught utterly unprepared. I won’t repeat the language that I’ve heard used by residents weary from a morning of hard work, but it suffices to say that my constituents are outraged—and rightfully so.
I’m painfully aware that this snowfall was exceedingly heavy and hard to push around, and I do not believe that the city’s hard-working plow drivers bear the blame for this failure. They’re doing the best they can with the staffing and resources at their disposal, and they will log many more hours of overtime in a cold, difficult job before this task is completed.
But when this is all said and done, I believe our taxpayers are owed an explanation for this outrageous failure to provide basic city services, and a plan to prevent it from happening ever again.
There is also confusion over when, exactly, the DPW started plowing main streets in Milwaukee.
On Monday, FOX6 News told you that while the DPW had 96 salt trucks out on the roads beginning overnight and into Monday morning, plowing did not begin until 2:00 p.m.
"No plows yet. There are scrapers on the belly of the salt trucks, they might be doing that right now. We have not mounted plow blades at this time," Sandy Rusch Walton, DPW spokeswoman told FOX6 News early Monday afternoon.
This, as Milwaukee County's Highway Division began plowing at 10:00 a.m.
On Tuesday, during the news conference, DPW officials refuted Alderman Bohl and Alderman Donovan's concerns, and said they did not start plowing too late on Monday.
DPW officials said salting started at 6:00 a.m. Monday, with some trucks dropping plows at 9:00 a.m. Other trucks dropped plows between 2:00 p.m. and 3:00 p.m. Monday.
"We did have nine inches of snow. It was like plowing concrete," Jeffery Smith with the DPW said. "The sensors (salt trucks) put on a front blade at 9:00 a.m. The garbage packers, when they were completed, and the recycling packers, when they were completed at the end of their work day put on their front blades at that point in time."
During the Tuesday afternoon news conference, DPW officials said all side streets would be plowed by midnight. Earlier Tuesday, a DPW spokeswoman indicated side streets would be plowed by 6:00 p.m.
"We should hopefully be wrapping up around midnight or so, but we will have crews working past midnight into (Wednesday) morning to address side streets as we need to," Smith said.
Meanwhile, Alderman Bohl and Alderman Donovan, who sit on the Public Works Committee say at next week's meeting, DPW officials will be "grilled" about this.
Monitor FOX6 News and FOX6Now.com for updates on this developing story.