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Babylon Town looks for extra help plowing snow

A man walks down Route 109 in West

A man walks down Route 109 in West Babylon on Jan. 3, 2014, during the snowstorm that left nearly a foot of snow across Long Island. Credit: Steve Pfost

Babylon Town is trying to expand the roster of independent contractors it uses to augment its snow plow fleet, venturing onto Facebook and the town website for the first time and offering a starting rate of $68.77 per hour.

The prerequisites are simple, Public Works Commissioner Tom Stay said: a vehicle, a plow and a willingness to work long overnight hours on the town’s 537 miles of road.

“Some guys come with larger pickup trucks and we also have guys who have payloaders,” he said. “We ask that for any kind of snow event we can call on them. If we have them on the list and call them and they don’t show up for a storm, we’re going to take them off the list.”

Stay said the town relies primarily on a fleet of 80 town vehicles staffed by full-time employees. But for decades it has also hired freelance help during the winter. It now has about 30 regulars, including landscapers, tradesmen and professional firefighters. Most are Babylon residents. He’d like to have 10 times as many, Stay said, but Babylon must compete with neighboring towns for workers.

Plowing progress is monitored with the help of GPS units that each contractor must use while on the job.

While the work can be profitable — many contractors have earned $7,000 or more after four snowstorms this winter, with more snow on the way — Stay warned that overhead costs can be high, since contractors are responsible for their own gas, maintenance and plows, which can cost $8,000.

“You’re not buying a plow one year and making all your money back,” he said. “It’s going to take several winters to maybe break even.”

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