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City snow cleanup falls short again

It’s not unusual this time of year for our region to be walloped by a large snowstorm dumping a foot or more of snow here. Yet, somehow each time this happens it seems we still become overwhelmed and roads, particularly in Warren, remain unplowed or at least snow-covered days after the storm has passed.

In the case of this week’s storm, heavy snow had been in the forecast for days, giving ample time for planning and preparation. Somehow, though, Warren continues to struggle in its snow removal process.

Days after the storm subsided, residents living on side streets were still complaining about the slow response to their streets, including some that remained snow-caked for days. Business operators along Courthouse Square in downtown expressed anger at the mounds of snow passing plows had pushed in front of their buildings, causing potential shoppers to scale over them in order to access sidewalks and shop entrances.

There must be better answers.

In nearby Mahoning County, for example, Youngstown’s parks and recreation department has been hauling snow from its downtown to avoid it packing up at the intersections and crosswalks. That makes good sense, and Warren Councilwoman Helen Rucker agreed.

When asked by our reporter, Warren’s Safety Service Director Eddie Colbert dismissed that idea and questioned how neighborhood residents would respond if snow were removed from in front of downtown businesses, while it’s left piled in front of homes in other areas of the city.

We see those as far different scenarios.

Youngstown also planned ahead by hiring contractors with four snow graders to help with that city’s side streets.

To be clear, Youngstown also struggled mightily to keep up with the snow volume, but from our vantage point, it appears better advance planning was part of that city’s process.

On Wednesday, Colbert defended his drivers, noting the incredible number of hours they have been putting in.

We don’t question that.

However, we also know that residents, visitors and workers in the city deserve to have safe and passable streets in a reasonable amount of time. Further, snow piles should not prevent customers from entering Warren businesses.

We put this issue squarely in the lap of the city’s elected and appointed leaders. They must ask questions, demand accountability and seek better solutions.

We applaud new City Councilwoman Ashley Miner, D-5th Ward, for doing just that. Miner, newly appointed chairwoman of council’s operations committee, has called a special meeting for this afternoon to discuss the slow cleanup, the complaints leaders have faced and to hash out new ideas to act more quickly in the future.

Bravo to this new council member for not hesitating to step up.

Going forward, if more equipment or workers are needed, those options must be explored. If outside contracts provide an option, then they must be considered. If it’s a matter of better training, so be it. Perhaps city leaders also could consider increasing salt ratios or exploring different truck routes.

Frankly, we don’t claim to be experts on the matter of municipal snow removal, but we rely on the experts to put their heads together, find better solutions and raise the bar.

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