City Snowplowing: ‘We are not treating our citizens equally’

City Council critical of snowplowing on Kenosha streets during weekend snowstorm

KENOSHA ⸺ While one alderperson heaped praise on local snowplowing efforts, others had an avalanche of complaints for the job done on city streets during last weekend’s snowstorm.

During the alderperson’s comments portion of Monday’s City Council meeting, Dist. 11 Ald. Rollin Pizzala first brought up the subject of snowplowing, critical of how it was done this time around.

Pizzala asked why the Kenosha Police Department had not been ticketing parked cars during alternate side parking this winter.

Kenosha District 11 map. Image courtesy of the city of Kenosha.

“I want to know why the city police department is not ticketing cars parked on the street,” he said. “I have talked to a community service guy going down my street and asked him to ticket some cars. … And I was told, ‘Well, I’m not going to put tickets on them.’”

Pizzala pointed out the exchange took place while the city’s snow emergency remained in effect.

“Then, we had a letter from a snowplow driver emailed today (Monday) asking the same thing,” he continued. “These cars are not being ticketed or towed, a couple cars have been sitting there for weeks. I need some answers.”

‘We do have the answers to your questions’

Mayor John Antaramian attempted to address Pizzala’s comments in the vaguest of ways. Legally, he said, he cannot respond to alderperson’s comments directly.

“It’s inappropriate for me to respond to alderman’s comments specifically. I will get you those answers. We do have the answers to your questions.”

The mayor later said he would send out a memo to all of the council members with the answer to Pizzala’s questions after several asked to be sent the answers too.

Kangas offers sole praise for snowplowing over weekend

Dist. 4 Ald. Holly Kangas, however, offered praise for the snowplow drivers, the city’s Department of Public Works and others for their efforts during the weekend’s snowstorm.

Kenosha District 4 map. Image courtesy of the city of Kenosha.

“I just wanted to comment about the snowplowing, and I can’t tell you how many compliments I’ve had from people in my district. So I want to say kudos to Public Works, to the plow drivers, to everybody involved.

“I know it was a lot of snow and a lot of work, and they really did a heck of a job. So thank you.”

Michalski asks residents to clear crosswalks for wheelchairs

Dist. 3 Ald. Jan Michalski used his comments to ask residents to consider those with disabilities when clearing their sidewalks. In particular, he asked residents to clear crosswalks wide enough to be accessible to wheelchairs and walkers.

“Just doing your sidewalk up to the crosswalk leaving the snow piled there is kind of defeating the purpose,” Michalski said. “So I would like to urge everybody to be kind to those people who have disabilities either in walkers or in wheelchairs, etc., to get those cleared out and wide enough for the wheelchairs, too, thank you.”

Ruffalo kicks off string of snowplowing criticisms

Dist. 16 Ald. Dominic Ruffalo didn’t hold back in his comments after Kangas offered up praise for the weekend’s snow removal.

“I wasn’t fortunate enough to get kudos in emails and phone calls on the snowplowing,” Ruffalo began. “I got seven phone calls, 27 emails about the lack of snowplowing in the western part of Kenosha.

Kenosha District 16 map. Image courtesy of the city of Kenosha.

“I wish I would have got some compliments. I know it’s a hard job. But I got nothing but complaints. So I’d just like to pass that on.”

He had mentioned it to city Public Works Director Shelly Billingsley Monday morning, however, “I just want to put it out there that everybody is not happy with the way the snow removal was done this time.”

Bogdala lists complaints received, questions decisions made

Ald. David Bogdala of the neighboring 17th District of the city, too, received “nothing but complaints” from constituents. However, he said, that is “not anything new, unfortunately.”

In fact, Bogdala has advocated for modifications to the city’s snow removal policy for years ⏤ since after the council passed the current policy five years ago.

Last night marked the exact five-year anniversary of that decision, Bogdala pointed out.

While the current policy is still an improvement over what was in place before, Bogdala said, it generates a “number of complaints.”

Critical of policy, not staff

Before delving into the most brutal of his criticisms, Bogdala first made the important point, in his opinion, of differentiating between snow removal policy and snow removal staff.

Kenosha District 17 map. Image courtesy of the city of Kenosha.

“As a person who was out and about during almost every snow event, I run into these men and women,” Bogdala said. “They’re some of the hardest-working people we have at the city. They put in an inordinate amount of hours this last snowstorm. I know people who worked 12 hours, then went home and took a nap and came back and worked another 12 hours.

“So you can differentiate between your criticism of the conditions, the policy and still praise the individual for what they’re doing,” he added. “And I think we should do that. We owe them all a big thank-you.”

Change in leadership needed

However, when it comes to the leadership overseeing snowplowing methodology, Bogdala pulled no punches.

“What’s happening from a leadership standpoint truly needs adjustment and fixing and needs it quickly,” Bogdala said. “What’s happening in a lot of areas in the city, and it’s not just in my district, it’s all across the city.

“I have brought this to the mayor and to the city administrator and they actually went out and looked and they saw it for themselves the things that I’ve been saying and showing them.”

‘Considerable problems that need to be addressed’

Bogdala claimed that the city would have been in dire straits if the weekend storm had hit the area later than it did.

“Had this snowfall come 24 hours later than when it did, we would have had an absolute disaster on our hands because no one in this city would be able to get to work,” he said. “It was bad enough that there were people who had to work on a Sunday who couldn’t get to work. Imagine what that would have been like Monday morning if we had had the same event.

“So there are considerable problems that need to be addressed.”

Authored resolution to address issues

The Dist. 17 alderman has already drafted a resolution ⏤ co-sponsored by Ruffalo, Dist. 5 Ald. Rocco LaMacchia and Dist. 12 Ald. Mitchell Pedersen ⏤ aiming to address not the when and how of snow removal, but the more substantial questions about resources.

“This is not just how we salt, when we salt, how we plow, when we plow,” Bogdala explained. “It’s, do we have the right equipment? Do we have the right allocation of headcount for this? Again, when you get in and talk to people, and talk to the men and women who do this job who have a ton of experience, you learn a lot.”

However, as a result of some policies, the resource of knowledge among workers is thinning as some have jumped ship, he said.

“Sadly, we’ve lost a lot of talent over the years,” he said. “Unfortunately, talent that has left not because they were looking forward to a happy retirement, but other issues.”

The city needs to hear these former employee’s thoughts to improve snow removal in the city, Bogdala said.

“I, for one, will not tolerate another event like we just had this past weekend,” Bogdala firmly stated. “It was absolutely atrocious. There was nothing that was good about it. There were decisions that were made which were, in my opinion, the wrong decisions.

“Residential streets were called off when they were supposed to be starting at midnight and didn’t start until five or six o’clock in the morning in many areas across the city. Why was that decision done? That was the wrong decision. And it led to a lot longer cleanup and issues that we dealt with.”

Resolution would put mayor and city administrator in charge of policy/resource review

Bogdala’s resolution calls for the mayor and City Administrator John Morrissey to review snowplowing operations.

“I’ve talked to (Morrissey) as well as the mayor on this issue,” Bogdala said. “And they’re going to make recommendations to the Public Works Committee on how we need to resolve these issues.”

‘We are not treating our citizens fairly’

Perhaps Bogdala’s most biting criticisms came at the end of his comments. Before yielding the meeting back to the mayor, Bogdala struck at the inequality shown in the methodology used in the city’s snowplowing methods.

Bogdala believes the council should address those disparities immediately.

“This needs to happen because we are not treating our citizens fairly; we are not treating our citizens equally; and we are not providing, what I believe, is one of the most basic services we have, which is clearing our streets.

“And it needs to get resolved.”

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