Glen Ridge: Snow Clearing Experts

Glen Ridge of New Jersey sets a perfect example of how to truly tend to the inclement weather conditions that residents may face.

The borough of Glen Ridge in New Jersey sets the standard on how to professionally and thoroughly remove the snow from its streets, walks, schools and public buildings.

Glen Ridge City Hall gets cleared of snow.
Glen Ridge City Hall gets cleared of snow. Photo courtesy of Scott Kennedy.

Public Works Supervisor, William Bartlett, a veteran of the Department of Public Works for the Borough of Glen Ridge in northern New Jersey, commands a crew of 14 professionals including a handful of temporary workers as needed. That crew is equipped with a front end loader, 16 trucks, plows, spreaders, throwers and countless shovels. The Glen Ridge Police Departments typically schedules 5 officers during a snow event. Bartlett and the borough of Glen Ridge run one of the most efficient snow clearing operations in the tri-state region, besting even the County of Essex in completeness and timeliness of its snow clearing operations. Without the unlimited budgets of the big counties and larger subsidized municipalities, Glen Ridge uses common sense and good old fashioned fiscal management to execute its goal of clearing the streets and walks of ice and snow before its constituents really need to get out and about.

The process starts each year when the citizens are at the beach and thinking of July fireworks. The borough’s Deputy Administrator and Planner, Director of Planning and Development Mike Zichelli is bidding for salt, hundreds of tons of salt if needed, and backup snow clearing contractors for the coming winter storms that might be six months away, signing contracts in the summer when the prices are lowest. Supervisor Bartlett looks over his equipment and orders the required repairs and preventive maintenance and stocks up on spare parts again in July, well in advance of the need – thereby getting the best price and stretching his limited budget of public funds.

Borough Administrator and Engineer Michael J. Rohal works with both Zichelli and Bartlett all year long to ensure the annual material and labor costs are proactively managed to ensure the snow storms and clearing operations do not cost more than the forecasted budget. Even a winter with multiple storms and related financial stress are planned for.

Supervisor Bartlett starts the snow clearing operation three days before a storm hits. The crews are alerted, the back up contractors are notified, the salt reserves in the county dome are verified and all the equipment is checked, fueled, loaded and tested all at least 48 hours before the storm is scheduled to arrive.

Glen Ridge plow and crew ready for snow
Glen Ridge plow and crew ready for snow. Photo courtesy of Scott Kennedy.

Six hours before the storm hits, the salt trucks are sent out to spread a cursory broadcast of salt on the road surfaces, which prevents the snow and ice from gripping the road surface before it can be removed. This may seem to be an unnecessary expense and other towns like Montclair generally forgo this step for cost reasons. What this prevents is the inches of packed ice that is un removable and “ice Potholes” that annually plagues Montclair drivers.

As the storm hits the borough, Supervisor Bartlett deploys his assets, both human and mechanical, in an around-the-clock, non-stop race to clear the streets, walks and lots before the crush of drivers and pedestrians venture out and need to traverse the now frozen beautiful community they call home.

Supervisor Bartlett smartly deploys one of the most effective street clearing methods, established well over a hundred years ago, to remove roadway snow and ice. Bartlett deploys the plows in the Echelon pattern,  a proven method endorsed by the National Highway Safety Counsel and the New Jersey Department of Transportation, wherein the smallest plow is out front along the centerline of the roadway and the fourth plow the largest and strongest is last and runs along the curb line.

Glen Ridge snow plows in Echelon pattern
Glen Ridge deploys trucks in the Echelon pattern for effective operations. Photo courtesy of Scott Kennedy.

Each plow moves its load into the path of the next plow in line until the whole load is thrown over the curb. By running this quad of plows together through the roadways, roads are cleared in one fell swoop from curb to curb as the quad of trucks completes its return trip. This process is run until all the major roadways are cleared. This method allows the homeowners to clear their aprons once without fear that the plows will return to refill their driveway cut with more ice.

The alternative method, such as the one deployed by Montclair, permits the plows to run individually, criss-crossing the township in a scatter and hit process; resulting is the outermost lanes of the streets remaining unplowed and unavailable for navigating and parking. This negates the public purpose of the whole snow clearing operation. Conveniently, the Montclair coffers are replenished via the windfall of tens of thousands in dollars in fines levied on motorist for parking in the roadway and too far from the curb because the curb is in accessible.

When the bulk of the storm has passed, Supervisor Bartlett deploys a small regiment of workers, part timers and contractors to clear the crosswalks, sidewalks at the public buildings and train stations and trestles with every manor of equipment from simple shovels to ride along snow throwers. The borough is rendered safe, clear and operational thanks to the yearlong efforts of the municipal staff, their methods and equipment.

Glen Ridge DPW crew
Glen Ridge DPW crew. Photo courtesy of Scott Kennedy.

The first storm of the season Glen Ridge used 30 tons of salt for the roadways out of the 35 tons that were on hand. The salt was immediately replenished with a delivery of 75 tons the following few days. The task list is considerable for the 14 person crew and they worked as a team to clear and render safe the 24 miles of roads, two public buildings, one train station, six parking lots, roughly 10,000 feet of sidewalk, 14 crossing guard stations, four bus stops and two handicap access points. After that was completed, they salted four public school parking lots for good measure. After 428 man hours of hard work, the crews returned to their normal work day schedules and began preparing for the next storm.

To see more images of the Borough of Glen Ridge Department of Public Works crews and equipment at work visit Photographer Scott Kennedy’s Gallery.

The borough of Glen Ridge runs one of the most well planned, well run, safest and most cost efficient snow plowing operations in the tri-state region. This is a model operation that stands as the benchmark for all municipalities to strive for.

Article updated 2-23-2015 to correct manpower figures.

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