Schenectady County

Schenectady plows clear streets the best they can

Most drivers dig out their car every time it snows. But with almost 3 feet of snow falling in the pa
A car sits snowed in along Lakeview Avenue in the Mont Pleasant area of Schenectady on Thursday.
PHOTOGRAPHER:
A car sits snowed in along Lakeview Avenue in the Mont Pleasant area of Schenectady on Thursday.

Most drivers dig out their car every time it snows. But with almost 3 feet of snow falling in the past month, it’s become clear that some car owners are just going to wait for it all to melt.

“We refer to them as ‘snowbirds,’ ” Commissioner of General Services Carl Olsen said. “They cause us problems wherever they are.”

Plows have carved roads around the frozen mounds, but since they’re still parked legally, they can’t be towed, no matter how irritating it is to maneuver around them, Olsen said. As long as the car isn’t parked on a priority street, it can stay on the side of the road even while the plows are working.

Olsen said he has sometimes resorted to posting no-parking signs for just one block of a street so that the owner of the snowbound car gets moving. If the car isn’t moved at that point, he can call in the tow trucks.

“We can post the area when we’re having difficulty getting cars or buses through,” Olsen said.

The tow truck drivers have dug some cars out of feet of snow, piled up by weeks of plowing. In some cases, the snow has turned to ice, but that hasn’t allowed the drivers to avoid a tow.

“They can get them out of there,” Olsen said.

In the few cases where cars were left on the priority streets, police have also hired tow truck drivers to dig out vehicles by hand and then tow the cars away. (The tow companies charge extra for this.)

But so far this year, Schenectadians seem to have gotten the message. Not one car was towed for parking on a priority street during a snowstorm, police spokesman Lt. Brian Kilcullen said.

Some cars were ticketed, but owners drove their cars away before police called a tow truck driver, he added.

“We did go through and ticket,” he said.

Since then, only seven cars have been towed during snow-removal operations. Kilcullen said police have done everything they can think of to avoid towing before the plows hit the main roads to push back the snow and widen the streets.

The streets are posted with no-parking signs around 7 a.m. Drivers are told to get off the road by 7 p.m., but the plows don’t go through until 10 p.m.

At 7 p.m., police go up and down the streets with bullhorns, trying to get owners to move their cars.

“Some people complain that we post at 7 p.m. but plow at 10 p.m. The reason is to give everyone ample time to comply,” Kilcullen said. “We’re looking to maximize compliance so vehicles have unimpeded flow down city streets. We want the snow pushed back as far as possible.”

Tickets, he said, aren’t as effective as a bullhorn.

“Tickets don’t necessarily get the car removed.”

But posting the streets and then using bullhorns seems to work.

“We’ve only towed a handful,” he said.

Tonight, police will use that procedure to clear parts of State Street and Broadway for snow removal.

Beginning at 7 p.m., parking will be prohibited on State Street from Broadway to Clinton Street and on Broadway from State Street to Hamilton Street. The restrictions will remain in effect until the streets are cleared and the no-parking signs are removed.

State Street will also be closed from Broadway to Clinton Street during the snow removal, which should start around 9 p.m.

Tickets for parking during the snow removal will cost $30. Towing will cost $85, as well as a $25 per day storage charge. Information about towed vehicles can be obtained by calling 382-5263.

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