As snow began to fall Tuesday afternoon, Mayor Gary McCarthy said the city would probably be able to handle the brunt of removing the expected snowfall, but would likely be calling on some private, outside companies to assist city crews in the work.
With forecasts calling for four to eight inches of snow, McCarthy said he expected “we’ll be able to handle that, but we’ll still bring in some outside help to assist the city crews in making sure the streets are opened and cleared.”
The city has faced strong public criticism for its response to record-breaking snowstorms in each of the last two Decembers. McCarthy said that during the December 2019 storm, the city was “a little bit slow” to call in its outside contractors.
Last month’s record storm, which dropped more than 30 inches of snow on the city overnight, saw criticism from within the city government largely lobbed at a lack of manpower and that snow removal, rather than plowing, was responsible for days of clogged streets.
“This year, the 31 inches we did a pretty good job dealing with it and got it cleaned up, basically, in five days, but it was a record-breaking storm,” McCarthy said. “There’s no place to put the snow.”
McCarthy said the city could use as many as four private contractors to work with the city on snow removal — William M. Larned & Sons, Inc., of Schenectady; Carver Companies, of Altamont; Allen W. Potts Construction, of Schenectady; and Kendall.
Former city General Services Commissioner Carl Olsen, who left his job with the city in 2014 to take a state job, is reportedly in the process of taking a position with Carver, but McCarthy said Tuesday that “Carl’s moving there is really independent of anything we do.”
Snow removal contracts are awarded prior to the start of the snow season at set rates depending on the types of vehicles used.
For the 2020-21 snow season, the city’s set rates for private snow removal contractors are:
- One ton with plow — $75 per hour
- Single axle dump with plow — $85 per hour
- Tri-axle dump with plow — $95 per hour
- Loader with plow — $135 per hour
- Loader with 10-foot, four-way articulating plow — $170 per hour
During his State of the City address on Monday, McCarthy detailed his hopes to work with the City Council to “better define and outline when and where we bring in outside contractors to help in our operations.”
McCarthy noted that in 2008, the city had 60 people on the payroll to respond to a snowstorm, compared to just 29 for last month’s storm. The state of emergency declared during December’s storm allowed the city to call in more outside help.
Keeping up with snow removal and weighing the use of city employees versus calling on outside contractors is a matter of tracking storms as they progress, McCarthy said.
“We monitor it on an ongoing basis,” he said. “As long as we’re able to stay ahead of it, or depending on what the forecast is, we’re able to use city crews. When we get with the higher amounts, then we’ll bring in additional contractors to supplement the city workforce.”