Commentary: City of Shelton’s response to snowstorm raises questions

Now that the snow has stopped falling for a while, it is time to reflect on how the city performed and what can be done to improve service. First let me be clear — the city Public Works Department did all they could given the conditions and what they had to work with.

That is the issue: Are we prepared? Do we have adequate equipment? Is the staff large enough for a city our size? What is the maintenance schedule for equipment?

Are there contracts in place with outside vendors to support city workers when a storm like the blizzard hits?

The city has more than 100 miles of roads traveling over a wide variety of terrain. To make matters even more complicated, state roads travel through Shelton as well, adding to the issues.

How many plow tricks is adequate?

Given that we have 100-plus miles of roads, how many plow trucks is adequate? I don’t have the answer to the question but we could look to Monroe, Trumbull, Derby or Ansonia and determine what the ratio of plow trucks to miles is in those communities. This would give us a start.

Should we have the best ratio? That depends on what level of service the residents want? How long should it take for all city roads to be plowed in a 6-inch snowfall? A 10-inch snowfall? A snowfall greater than a foot?

If we are to measure the performance of Public Works we need to develop a matrix system to facilitate that measurement. Performance measurement is not a strong suit of this administration, but it should be.

Post-storm communication was an issue

One area that needs a great deal of improvement is communication. The Herald had an editorial about the problem and others have written about it.

This storm did not result in widespread power outages so we were able to keep up with what was happening except there was no communication from the city until the Mayor returned and then his response was anything but informative.

Rather, he seemed defensive as he said he didn’t drive a plow so why blame him. No, you don’t drive a plow, I don’t think you have a license to operate heavy equipment, but you are the person who is ultimately responsible for city services.

There was no reverse 9-1-1 call. We had one when there was a road race that would close down streets around Huntington Center, but not in a blizzard.

The city website provided no information. Calls to City Hall left one feeling empty as they had no answer other than “be patient.”

Surrounding communities did a far better job in keeping their residents informed.  Look at the city website even now; board minutes where actions are taken are not posted until weeks after the action.

Emergency Management, and going forward

Emergency Management is up to date, at the time I am writing this article and that is good. This should always be the case, especially during an emergency.

I hope the city administration will take this opportunity to take a critical look at the city’s ability to respond to emergencies and how information is provided to residents. Let’s use this as a chance to improve.

David Gioiello is chairman of the Shelton Democratic Town Committee.