WARWICK, R.I. (WPRI) — Even though Rhode Island is only expected to receive a coating of snow Wednesday evening, cities and towns are using the first official snowfall of the season as a test-run for the winter ahead.
Chief Meteorologist Tony Petrarca says communities won’t need to fire up their plows for the passing storm, but some are putting out the call for plow drivers for later in the season.
Eric Earls, the engineering program manager for the Warwick Department of Public Works, tells 12 News the city is offering additional incentives this year to ensure they have enough drivers to clear the roadways.
“The city has always had an incentive program where we would pay the plow drivers a certain amount of money if they stay with us for an entire season,” Earls explained.
Earls said Mayor Frank Picozzi has upped that incentive from $1,000 to $1,500.
“Last year, we had a man-power problem, so I took a plow over and I don’t get overtime,” Picozzi said.
The city is also adjusting plow drivers’ pay rates to stay competitive with other communities.
Earls said even though they’re still looking for drivers, their fleet of plow trucks is ready to hit the road when necessary.
“Right now, if we were to get a plowable event, we would be in good shape,” Earls said. “It would be a little bit of a struggle, but for the most part we are in good shape.”
As for Wednesday’s wintry mix, Earls said their salt and sand pile is well-stocked for the season and they have sanders on stand-by.
“We’re going to use this as a trial run,” he said, adding that the city plans to add more salt to their mixture to prevent the sand from clogging storm drains.
Meanwhile, in Providence, Mayor Jorge Elorza said the city’s fleet of plows and trucks are prepared for the season, and they plan to call in outside contractors to assist with clearing snow during larger storms.
Elorza said the city started reaching out to outside contractors in August and have around 50 drivers available.
“We’ll be ready for whatever comes our way,” he said.
While communities are making their own preparations, the R.I. Department of Environmental Management (DEM) is reminding homeowners, businesses and community groups to designate snow collection sites for the season.
Snow removed from roadways, parking lots, sidewalks and driveways is typically contaminated with road salt, sand, litter and other debris, according to the DEM.
The DEM suggests choosing a collection site that’s far away from any nearby waterbodies or wetlands to minimize the impacts on public health and the environment.
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