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GPS navigation in Syracuse snowplows track their every move

Tom Magnarelli
Pete O'Connor, the commissioner of Syracuse's Department of Public Works.

As warm weather returns to the region, the last things on people’s minds are snowplows. The plows in the city of Syracuse received an upgrade this past winter that allows for more accountability.

GPS navigation tracking is now equipped on Syracuse’s plows and the commissioner of the Department of Public Works, Pete O’Connor, said they can now relay the information it gathers to residents.  

“We get an awful lot of complaints from the people that say the plow hasn’t been here in two or three days," O'Connor said. "If we have GPS, we know when it was there, we know the exact time and location, we know how fast they were going. As far as saying I haven't seen a plow in two or three days. I had hundreds of those, that I was able to prove wrong. The other complaint that we get a lot is, they're speeding, they're going 50-60 m.p.h. in these big plows. Well, I know how fast they're going."

O’Connor said they can track when the plow is down and the salter is on. When someone claims a plow damaged their car, O’Connor can investigate.

“Now I know if they were there or not," O'Connor said. "If they were, they were and we pay it. But a lot of times it could be another plow driver, a private plow driver.”

O’Connor calls his plow drivers the number one snow fighters in the world based on Syracuse’s average snowfall amounts. But he said that pride does not always translate to the new generation of workers. O’Connor emphasized that his department is about safety but overtime for snowplow drivers is voluntary, not mandatory. That means if there is a snowstorm and he needs drivers to work longer, it is up to the drivers if they want to stay.

“And they were refusing it and I’m thinking to myself, how can this happen?" O'Connor asked. "It’s getting to the point where it’s scary to me.” 

O’Connor said luckily this past winter was a mild one, but that will not always be the case in the future.

Parking meters

As development continues at Syracuse’s Inner Harbor, more parking meters are expected to be added. The Inner Harbor is one of a few neighborhoods in the city that will see more parking meters.

O’Connor, said he sometimes gets complaints from residents who have workers parking all day on their streets.

Credit Ellen Abbott/WRVO

“With all the new businesses going down in that area, if you don’t have parking meters with some type of term limits, they’ll park their all day, and people will get upset about that,” O'Connor said.

O’Connor emphasized that the meters will not come to residential streets. He said more meters will be put on the city’s west side next month, near Leavenworth Park. He also said the meters at the Inner Harbor and on the Syracuse University campus could expand their time limits from two to four hours.

Tom Magnarelli is a reporter covering the central New York and Syracuse area. He joined WRVO as a freelance reporter in 2012 while a student at Syracuse University and was hired full time in 2015. He has reported extensively on politics, education, arts and culture and other issues around central New York.