PEPPERELL — Cold weather is just around the corner, and that means fierce conditions can’t be too far behind.
Time to prepare for winter’s wrath? Pepperell is ahead of the game.
“We’ve been getting ready for a couple of weeks now,” said Highway Division Superintendent and Fire Department Deputy Chief Peter Shattuck.
Pepperell’s Highway Division is certainly gearing up for the months to come. The 11-foot plows are out, the sanders have been mounted and the storm equipment is in tip-top shape and ready to go.
The workers have been checking the plow routes and cutting down trees throughout the town. Also, sand and salt have been ordered. Currently, there is enough to cover at least the next two storms — 200 tons of salt and 200 yards of sand.
“We are prepared,” said Shattuck. “There’s no way to tell what the weather will throw at us, but we have enough materials for the storm that’s coming, and as the guys use it up, we’ll replenish it.”
The amount of salt and sand that the town buys will vary throughout the whole winter. The division is on a line-item budget, which means that cost centers, or departments, group each individual financial statement item, such as sand or salt. This way it is easier to compare figures from previous years.
Shattuck said that this year’s budget allows $75,000 to be spent on salt and $12,000 for sand and stone.
Due to the budget, the division was forced to lay off two of their workers a year and a half ago. And with 82 miles worth of road to cover this winter, the crew is feeling a little overwhelmed.
“With two less guys, it makes it very difficult to keep up and provide the same service that we did a couple of years ago,” the deputy chief admitted.
Fortunately, in the event that there is a real catastrophe, friends in the Pepperell Fire Department are always willing to lend a helping hand. For this, Shattuck and the rest of the team are extremely grateful.
Starting on Nov. 19, they will be on call until April. Due to cutbacks, they have agreed upon a two-day furlough. A furlough is a temporary leave of absence without pay. Typically it is given to members of the armed services or to employees during times of harsh economic conditions.
Since the department will be working extra hard this year, they need all of the help from the community that they can get.
“Some of the residents, what they can do, is adopt a catch basin,” said Shattuck. “If they can keep leaves and debris cleared from the basin, it would be a big help. You know, that way the basin won’t get flooded.”
Along with the storm drain, residents should also be making sure that the area around the fire hydrants is cleared. This is actually being asked by both the Highway Safety Department and the Fire Department. It truly does make a difference, especially during an emergency.
Highway Safety Secretary Nancy Cyr said that most of the calls she receives from residents are in regards to mailboxes. Shattuck explained that a lot of mailboxes tend to get knocked off by snow debris from the plows. He asks to please ensure the mailboxes are secure and also at an appropriate distance from the road.
“If they do this, then we can concentrate on doing our job and making sure the roads are clear,” said Shattuck.
The division treats each storm differently because there are lots of different variables involved, such as snow type, rain and wind. In the past, they tended not to worry so much. You know if it snows, it snows and they’ll get out there and deal with it. Today, they feel it’s necessary to get out on the roads as early as they can.
“There’s a lot more cars; there’s a lot more roads and there’s less help,” said Shattuck. “If we know there’s a storm coming, we ready the trucks ahead of time so that when the guys get here they can just go. We are all ready before a storm and we are ready for this winter.”