The director of the Waldoboro Public Works Department told selectmen Jan. 26 that complaints about downtown snow removal are piling up like snowdrifts before the January thaw.

When there is a storm, snowplow crews first clear the roads so people can get to work and school buses can pick up students. Then the crew of eight turns its attention to clearing snow around the downtown streets.

Public Works Director John Daigle said the town needs to make a decision: stick with its priorities for snow removal, institute parking bans during storms, pay for more workers and equipment, or hire a contractor to remove snow from the downtown streets. Daigle was looking for an answer at the Jan. 26 Board of Selectmen meeting.

“Public demand is getting worse and worse,” Daigle told Town Manager William Post and Selectmen Clinton Collamore, Rebecca Maxwell, Theodore Wooster and Robert Butler. “I am to the point where I need an answer … how do you want me to treat [downtown streets].”

Wooster called for a vote of confidence in the current system. Residents, especially those who live and work downtown, should know that roads will be plowed before the downtown streets are cleaned up. That is the priority of the Waldoboro Public Works Department, and it was endorsed with the selectmen’s unanimous vote.

The town manager said he wanted to discuss snow removal because there have been several complaints this year and residents should understand the process. The public works crew is responsible for nearly 100 miles of roads. There are 114 intersections and turnarounds to maintain. The snowplow crews also clear the parking lots at the town office, town landings and the transfer station. Daigle said his public works crew is the cheapest around. Daigle said his cost is $2,500 per mile to plow, sand and salt the roads, while other towns spend up to $7,800 per mile. There is only one crew, and the members are on call 24 hours a day from November to April, Daigle said.

“We really appreciate the effort into making the game work,” Wooster said.

Each plow truck driver has a 16-mile route, and it takes about three hours to do both sides of the road, Daigle said. When a snowstorm ends, the crew goes into cleanup mode to clear the intersections, push snow back and treat the roads with sand or calcium chloride. When there is slush on a road, crews go back and clean their routes.

“Once a storm is done, they can’t park their trucks,” Post said.

Post said the timing of back-to-back storms led to complaints about downtown snow removal.

“I know it’s frustrating for businesses but it’s also frustrating for us,” Post said.

Post said the town wants downtown businesses to thrive and people to be able to walk safely on the sidewalks, but the priority of the public works department is to plow the roads first. Post said he appreciates the business owners who shovel the downtown area. Post said it should be a “team environment” where business owners, residents and the town cooperate to get the streets clean.

Post said some people think that because the snow has stopped the streets should be spotless. At least one selectman agreed.

“I think the expectations are out of line,” Butler said.

Butler also raised the issue of piling the snow at the town landing on Pine Street. Daigle said crews use hay bales to keep most of the sand from going into the river. Alternative sites mentioned at the meeting – such as the A.D. Gray parking lot – are not large enough to hold all the snow, Daigle said. Post said he and Daigle have been talking about finding another place for the piles of snow. In the selectmen’s vote of confidence for the public works department, Butler added that the town should look for an alternative place for the snow.

“It’s got no business going in the river,” Butler said.

As Daigle left the meeting, a police officer said cars were starting to slide off Route 220. A downtown resident told him Jefferson Road was getting slick. Daigle said he would check the road conditions on his way home, and call his crew if needed. An hour later one could hear a truck spreading sand on some downtown streets.

In other business

• Selectmen approved a contract for $2,300 for disposition of animals with the Lincoln Country Animal Shelter.

• Selectmen approved an agreement for $5,400 from the transfer station budget for landfill water monitoring.

• Selectmen endorsed a letter of intent for a grant to expand broadband access.