Mayor Mark Lauretti said the city needs to improve emergency communications with the public during storms, based on what happened after the major snowstorm of Feb. 8 and 9.
“We’ll make an effort to do a better job, no doubt,” Lauretti said.
Lauretti said he has heard the criticism from people, including those left wondering when their roads would be plowed as the start of the work week neared. “I’ll accept that,” he said of the validity of the complaints on a lack of communication.
He stressed that the communication glitches weren’t due to “lack of effort” by the city.
Lauretti said two reverse 9-1-1 calls scheduled to go out on that Saturday and Sunday apparently did not reach everyone, with no explanation yet on what happened.
“Something went wrong with the reverse 9-1-1 system,” he said. “I thought the calls went out. It appears that some people got them and some people did not. We’re still trying to evaluate what went wrong.”
Piggybacks on the state system
The city uses the state system for reverse 9-1-1 calls, which are phone messages sent to residents to provide information on emergencies. “We piggyback on the state system,” Lauretti said.
The mayor said that system has worked well with previous emergencies, including other major snowstorms and hurricanes, but it could be time to make a change. “We may have to rethink our system and get our own,” Lauretti said.
Some cities and towns use their own outside vendors to handle distributing emergency communication messages, although there is an additional cost in taking that approach.
Lauretti also said the city’s website could be turned into a better resource for people during emergencies. “I’ll accept that as well,” he said.
The city has a part-time city employee who oversees the municipal website, at www.cityofshelton.org.
Historic snowfall amounts
While some people may have been upset about how long it took to get their streets plowed, Lauretti said, the city was dealing with a historic snowfall.
“Plows couldn’t move, so we had to get payloaders,” he said. “Plows couldn’t make it up some streets — they had to go down them. There were challenges on where to even put all the snow.”
Lauretti said Shelton is a community with many hills and densely developed areas, such as downtown and the Pine Rock Park area. There are many narrow streets, and on-street parking is common in some parts of the city.
“The grades of the roads can be very challenging,” he said.
‘The critics never had to face this’
The harshest critics are downplaying the magnitude of having to clear about three feet of snow, according to the mayor. “The critics never had to face this,” he said. “They have no idea what it takes. This was a 100-year storm.”
He said amount of snow that fell presented public safety concerns as well as just having to contend with moving the snow from roadways.
“We wouldn’t have prepared any differently except if I knew we were going to get that much snow, I would have gone out and rented more payloaders,” he said.
The city, like many other municipalities, turned to outside contractors to help with snow removal. Lauretti said Shelton used local private contractors who “live and pay taxes in Shelton” to assist public works crews.
As for the budget impact of the recent snowstorm, Lauretti said the city probably spent more money than it did during the previous three winters combined.
How much the city spends on snow removal varies greatly from year to year, he said, noting it has been as high as $170,000 and as low as $1,000 in recent years.