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Sandy Post Mortem: Public Works

Township employees looked at what worked and what fell short during the tropical storm and look towards the future.

The first 90 minutes of the Springfield Township Committee meeting on Tuesday, Nov. were devoted to a review on Springfield’s response to Sandy.

The consensus among department heads and officials was that lessons from the previous year’s major disruptive weather events, Irene and the October Snowstorm, where learned and applied, but that additional resources were needed to prepare the township for future storms. The departments all noted that storage and procurement of fuel and generators presented a challenge in the storm and would factor heavily in planning for coming storms. 

Public Works director Ken Homlish detailed how his crews’ extensive preparation for the storm was informed by the township’s experience with Irene. To stave off the flooding that paralyzed the town after Irene, public works crews cleared 300 yards of leaves from Springfield streets and cleared catch basins as well as the flood gates on Riverside drive.

While flooding wasn’t a problem in this storm, Sandy’s powerful winds had an equally devastating effect. Homlish said that felled trees and power lines closed down 18 roads in town, including two county roads. Public works prioritized opening those roads in the first day of the storm before spending the next week clearing trees. Fuel was not in steady supply, but the crews cleared more debris than in either of the 2011 storms, hauling 4200 yards of debris compared to 3200 in the previous year’s snowstorm and 1500 during Irene.

In addition to utilizing fully staffed crews, Homlish brought in contractors to clear streets and township properties. In addition, while he admitted to some initial apprehension about the prospect, Homlish also utilized township volunteers in tree clearings.

When touching on needed changes, Homlish said his department needed ready access to fuel and backup generators as well as cell phones for emergency communications. He said that many of the stumps remaining from trees downed in the storms were beyond his department’s capacity for removal and that he needed to bring in contractors to remove them. He said he believed FEMA was likely to reimburse the town for the expense. 

Township Committee member David Amlen asked if there were plans in place to replace the trees, noting that the tree roots were critical for water storage and flood mitigation. Homlish said while 45 trees were slated to come in later this month and that his department was looking into whether FEMA would reimburse Springfield for replacing them.

“The trees are a valuable asset for the town,” Homlish said. 

Jim Shamrock November 30, 2012 at 06:08 PM
There are still So many Huge trees that are still Laying on Streets and property in town. Take a look At the Nice crushed white extended Econoline van Right in plain sight on S. Springfield Avenue?? Temporary Extra Help should be hired! Is Springfield township DPW or the township hiring with any of the local Emergency Funding for local jobs??
Jim Shamrock November 30, 2012 at 07:46 PM
I have been going to the Fema disaster center almost daily to see which state department happens to be there and try to get as much information as possible. The info from the state changes weekly. Now there has been approximately 15 million for Union County for temporary storm cleanup work. To qualify , you have to be unemployed with 0 income and they are supposed to provide local jobs. I've applied and been to 3 sessions at the Plainfield unemployment office and have heard NOTHING???
Jim Shamrock November 30, 2012 at 09:23 PM
Dear Really(???), This has been a very traumadic devastating Storm for all of us (including yourself I'm sure). You may work for the town or DPW? If so, there is no need to be defensive for them. I believe that EVERYONE including the DPW, Township Emergency Services, Springfield PD and Auxiliary and Fire Department and the Mayor and Counsel have done everything under their power and went above and beyond during and after this terrible storm. With that being said, there is ongoing tree damage alone (Tremendous trees uproote and down in front and in backyards all throughout Springfield). From personal experience and from plenty of feedback from Neighbors, these trees are NOT covered under insurance or FEMA because it's not laying on the house, car etc. Every tree estimate for this type of situation has been an Average of $2500-$3000 per Tree for complete removal (and that's on the low side). In this Economy, many can barely afford their mortgage, taxes, insurance food and shelter and do NOT have the funds for these trees to be removed. My understanding is that the Town cannot handle this type of tree removal and it's been brought to the attention of Many, that recent State Emergency Funding has been allocated per County (approximately 14 Million dollars) to provide local Short term employment for local people out of work to help with this work at very low wages (starting at $9.00 per hour). I am just waiting to see where THIS funding shows up.
Jim Shamrock November 30, 2012 at 09:27 PM
Part 2--- The funding I menton below is NEW funding for New Temporary Jobs to assist with further cleanup. It has nothing to do with FEMA money expected to help out the township and pay for work already done or additonal DPW work. Hopefully, there will be Funding coming thru for all of this before any Major Snowstorms but due to the severity of the hardships down the shore, it is more likely early next year. God help us all!
Bob Groder November 30, 2012 at 10:42 PM
I feel the DPW has done an ok job in town considering how much there is to do. My street and neighborhood isnt close to done as most of the streets have tons of leaves and branches all over the place combined and in some cases out in the middle of the street making it impossible to drive on some side streets. some people are just lazy and pile the leaves in the middle of the street making it dangerous for people driving on the side streets. people just expect everything to be done for them. we need to cooperate with the DPW as their job is hard enough. if some people werent lazy they could spread out some of the leaves and branches instead of creating a hazard in some cases. people need to work together and not just for themselves. this is the same attitude i see when i stop at every red light when its about to turn red while people whiz through them. thanks to the new system I stop when i admit i didnt used to. everyone is always in a hurry and the same mindset applies when putting out their leaves.

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