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Islip Town Supervisor blames slow snow removal on aging equipment, small workforce

Islip Town Supervisor Tom Croci, at Newsday's conference

Islip Town Supervisor Tom Croci, at Newsday's conference room in Melville (April 20, 2012) Credit: Randee Daddona

Islip Town Supervisor Tom Croci said Monday that all of the town's streets had been touched by a plow at least once and its cleanup efforts were partly impaired by the volume of the snow -- nearly 3 feet in some places -- malfunctioning equipment and a smaller workforce than in recent years because of budget cuts.

The town had access to more than 300 plows -- about 125 town-owned and another 200 from private contractors -- but several broke down under the weight of the snow at different times after the storm hit Friday night. With snow falling at the rate of 5 to 6 inches an hour, many of the plows failed under the enormous snowfall.

Croci also described the town's fleet as "aged" and said its condition contributed to the failing equipment. He also said a lack of heavy equipment has hampered the town's efforts to move large piles of snow and keep intersections and sidewalks clear.

"The kind of investment into equipment that should have been made as it's aged, wasn't done," Croci said. "We have the kind of equipment that we have, and we have to make it work. We were able to get our trucks into service as quickly as possible. But the amount of heavy, wet snow that we had to move, it was very difficult. You really need that heavy equipment. There's not much a plow can do with a huge pile of snow; it's like hitting a brick wall."

Croci said the town is now concentrating on completely clearing all of its streets and removing plowed snow piles from roadways, which he said is difficult to do without heavy equipment. He said there's a "scarcity" of that equipment statewide, making the job more difficult.

Croci said the town has kept up with maintenance and bought one or two new vehicles or used equipment from time to time, but it has not been able to replace the aging fleet because of fiscal constraints.

"We're continually, within our budget, replacing vehicles when we can," he said. "We're constantly trying to update the fleet, but in the current fiscal circumstances it's difficult for Islip to go out and buy a bunch of plows or pay loaders."

Croci said town employees from the Public Works, which he said has 100 fewer workers than it did six years ago because of budget cuts, Parks and Recreation and other departments worked through the weekend to clear streets.

"Every resource and every employee that could have been brought to bear was brought to bear," he said.

Croci said the state offered the town 10 trucks to assist in its cleanup effort, and the town accepted.

"It really helped us get ahead of things," he said.

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