Massachusetts

How Public Works Crews Are Preparing for Snow With Drivers Out Due to COVID

As cities and towns across Massachusetts plan for snow Friday, some departments of public works are dealing with staffing shortages due to rising COVID-19 cases

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With Friday's impending snowstorm, public works crews across Massachusetts are dealing with staffing shortages due to rising COVID-19 cases.

In Foxboro, DPW Director Chris Gallagher says about seven workers have been out over the past week due to COVID. Thankfully, Gallagher says most of those workers will be out of quarantine on Friday.

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In addition to dozens of their own trucks, Foxboro also has a steady fleet of about 20 contractors ready to go.

"Most of our routes are covered by more than one truck — some with two, three, some have four on them — so we'll just pull trucks from different routes and fill the voids," said Gallagher.

Brutus Cantoreggi is the Public Works director in Franklin, and he is also juggling plow drivers.

They're dealing with a 30% shortage in workers due to the pandemic, down about 11 people.

Cantoreggi says it's also been tough finding drivers with a commercial driver's license.

"Everyone is looking for drivers, we were looking for drivers before even COVID came along," he said. "It means it's going to be tough, a lot more difficult to get it done."

This is expected to be a quick-moving storm, which means fewer shifts of crews, and that will help.

"If we're not doing our jobs, that means the police can't get somewhere, the fire can't get somewhere, the ambulance can't get there, it's difficult," said Cantoreggi.

The towns are asking for people to remain patient and to stay off the roads so crews can get the job done.

The Massachusetts Department of Transportation also says it is closely monitoring the forecast, with 3,900 pieces of state and vendor equipment ready to go.

The department said it does not expect its operations Friday to be impacted.

"MassDOT and cities and towns have changed their operating procedures to minimize the spread of COVID-19 and no crew shortages are expected. The department is confident that it has plenty of equipment, staff, and materials," spokesperson Kristen Pennucci said in a statement Wednesday.

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