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Snowstorm catches Syracuse DPW off guard due to staffing, plow equipment issues

City of Syracuse
A snow pile in Syracuse after last week's snowstorm.

Residents in the city of Syracuse complained to city officials about unplowed streets following last week’s snowstorm, where nearly a foot of snow fell across central New York. Syracuse's Department of Public Works Commissioner Jeremy Robinson admitted Monday they were caught off guard. 

The storm hit right before DPW transitions into the snow season. There were 20 less drivers on the night shift last week than what is normal during the winter. And not all the trucks were converted over from picking up leaves to handling snow and ice. At a common council meeting Monday, broadcast on the city’s YouTube page, Robinson said they will get better.

“Next steps, obviously we’re going to get better with GPS," Robinsaon said. "As far as the side streets concerned, I know I got a lot of calls with side streets. GPS is going to be implemented early next month. That will be something that residents can look at online to see if we actually went down your street and give them a better understanding of what goes on at DPW.”

Officials said Syracuse also has a shortage of mechanics, because city wages are not as competitive as other public and private positions.

Director of City Initiatives Greg Loh apologized to residents that had to wait for snow clearance. He said Friday’s snowstorm came at a time when the city’s full staffing and plow equipment were not yet in place.  

The Syracuse Common Council paused a vote to eliminate the city’s snow plow licenses. Councilor Susan Boyle, who said the $250 license fee hurts businesses, now says the council will try to make changes to the law, rather than get rid of it, in the next two weeks.

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.