Aldermen, residents call DPW’s response to winter storm unacceptable: Mayor Barrett responds

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MILWAUKEE -- Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett on Wednesday, December 30th weighed in on the painful wait for plows in the city of Milwaukee after Monday's winter storm dumped nine inches of snow in Milwaukee. This, one day after at least three aldermen took issue with the City of Milwaukee's Department of Public Works. There were still some streets in Milwaukee that hadn't been plowed.

Mayor Barrett says city officials are reviewing how Monday's storm was handled, but he added that there was so much more snow than expected, and that kept plows from reaching side streets sooner.

Multiple aldermen and residents say DPW's response to the snow was unacceptable. Some city officials say DPW crews should have had much more outside help than they did.

40th and Capitol in Milwaukee

40th and Capitol in Milwaukee

DPW crews visited Mose Fuller's block near 40th and Capitol at 7:00 p.m. Tuesday.

The snow stopped falling late on Monday night.

"It was so bad then that the plow that tried to come down, they had cars that were stuck in the road and the plow couldn`t get around them," Fuller said.

Snow in Milwaukee

Snow in Milwaukee

DPW's response to Monday's storm has drawn harsh criticism from some aldermen and residents.

"The DPW administration dropped on the ball on this," Alderman Jim Bohl said.

Mayor Barrett says in addition to the nine inches of heavy, wet snow, high winds slowed down plow trucks and forced them to make multiple passes on main roads.

Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett

Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett

"Would we have preferred to have them cleared (Tuesday) morning? Absolutely, yes -- but I also know we got 50 miles-per-hour winds and a sudden change in the weather. It`s gonna make it difficult," Mayor Barrett said.

Bohl, along with Alderman Mark Borkowski and Alderman Bob Donovan say part of the problem is that the DPW should have 80 additional private plows for winter storms. The DPW had less than a quarter of that amount of private plows on Monday.

"If you need 80 and you only have 18 and you`re coming into the snow season, there ought to be some sense of urgency," Alderman Borkowski said.

Plowing snow in Milwaukee

Plowing snow in Milwaukee

"If this is an area where the aldermen want to revisit, I`m more than happy to talk to them about this and see whether that`s area we want to look at what the retainers would be and how much that would cost," Mayor Barrett said.

There is also continuing confusion over some empty recycling bins on some city blocks.

Jerome Lipinski says city crews came by and took his cart on Tuesday.

"Recycling was picked up right on schedule. Believe it or not, they did come out," Lipinski said.

This, after the DPW announced on Monday it was cancelling garbage and recycling pick-up Tuesday so crews could focus on plowing.

"We were surprised it was picked up because of the weather," Lipinski said.

Plowing snow in Milwaukee

Plowing snow in Milwaukee

This is just adding to the frustration felt by a number of city officials and residents.

"They failed miserably and I just hope it doesn`t happen again," Fuller said.

DPW officials say 27 vehicles were towed during this storm. These vehicles were obstructing alleys, driveways or traffic.

Towing only occurs when a Snow Emergency is declared, and there was no Snow Emergency for Monday's storm.

However, vehicles that are blocking traffic, driveways and alleys are towed regardless, and that's why the 27 vehicles were towed.

CLICK HERE for the DPW's "Winter Parking Regulations" page.

Alderman Joe Davis, who is running for mayor, issued this statement Wednesday on DPW's response to the storm:

Having analyzed the Department of Public Works response to this week’s snow storm, I have concluded that there are several issues to blame for the poor level of service. The first is that the delay in reinstating the winter parking rules was a mistake with deep ramifications. Citizens were not told well in advance that the restrictions would be reinstituted, and we should have used every media outlet to get the message out—just like when the political decision was made to suspend the rules.

The other issue is that the DPW is failing to plow streets, especially residential streets, from curb to curb, which is causing reduced traffic flow when cars are being parked on the streets. In some cases, the curb is two feet or more away from the plowed area on both sides of the street, causing the driving surface to be reduced by four feet or more. Given the freezing that can occur during this time of year, those snow piles could become permanent, causing additional snowfall to further reduce the traffic flow on residential streets.

This deployment of personnel was one of the worst in all the years I have served this city, and the excuse of "this storm took us by surprise" is unacceptable. We all knew the high level of moisture coming from the south and the heavy rains and flooding it left behind.

I will be looking forward to council committees taking up this issue to get the answers that seem elusive at this point. Meanwhile, I would like to apologize to the residents of the 2nd Aldermanic District and the citizens of the City of Milwaukee who were impacted by our poor performance.

Alderman Bob Donovan issued another statement Wednesday, reading as follows:

They say revenge is a dish best served cold, but I never in my wildest dreams thought that the mayor’s administration would take that saying literally.

Driving around the 8th Aldermanic District today, I did not see even a single plow making the rounds. I’m told there were several salters out there somewhere, yet I could not find them. Even if that was the case, then it’s a pitiful response to what is clearly an ongoing problem.

The road conditions in my district remain absolutely awful, and the job of plowing the roads is far from done. And yet, Department of Public Works crews have been moved back to garbage and recycling duty, as if they’ve completed their work on the roads. As far as I’m concerned, this is the wrong course of action, and it’s a clear mistake to leave residents with this inadequate level of service.

I don’t even know what this administration is thinking any more—and I’m left wondering if even they know what they’re doing!

I also had a chance to drive through some other parts of the city this morning, where the roads are in much better shape! This leaves me to conclude that the poor level of service in my district is nothing but payback for my opposition to this administration, and for my years of calling ‘em like I see ‘em.

5 comments

  • bob

    saw several plows on 27th and lincoln on monday morning. believe thats donovans district. when you go from 2 inches predicted to 9 inches of actual snow that changes things.

  • LOL

    Man being an alderman is easy. You don’t have any decision making power so you have plenty of time to point fingers. Job looks like cake

  • Dee

    We need a trolley like we need a hole in our heads! Maybe we can spent that money on teaching our plow drivers how to plow the end of driveways and alley ends a bit better. Instead of making sure that we can’t get into our driveways or alleys! I work and came home at 9:30 pm and couldn’t get in my alley…had to dug the end out and the got stuck in the side street and in my alley! Maybe with that money for the trolley we should spend it on having our alleys plowed by the city! I live in and area with people that have been here for 40+ years and they can’t shovel out these alleys!

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