BLOOMFIELD, NJ — Prognosticators of the weather are offering conflicting forecasts for the coming months. Some say it will be a mild winter, while others promise plenty of snow and frigid temperatures. But Anthony Nesto, director of the Bloomfield Department of Public Works and Parks, has heard it all. And he also checks with another authority and is bracing in response to what he sees.
“The squirrels scare me,” he said earlier this week. “They are going wild gathering food and burying it. Maybe it’s an old wives tale.”
Maybe not. But whatever, Nesto said his crew was ready on Oct. 15 — for whatever.
“We are prepared for the first snow,” he said. “We did a once-over for all the vehicles. The mechanic shop is hopping. If we get snow, we have 30 pieces that can plow. Twelve of those are large dump trucks and the other 18 are small pickups or mason dumps. Those are small dump trucks.”
But right now and for the next three weeks, the DPW is in the bulk of its leaf season. Daily, two garbage trucks and a couple of mason trucks are sent out.
“That ties up eight of my guys,” Nesto said. “We want the leaves to come down. We want nature to take its course. But there are less trees and less leaves than 10 years ago.”
The DPW has 40 full-timers, 10 part-timers, and four clerical workers. There is always work for them. Earlier this week there was a water leak on Raab Avenue.
“Not a water main,” Nesto adds.
The department has a small tree-maintenance crew that prune and remove trees.
“Trees are pruned,” Nesto said. “Trimming is for barbers.”
It is only after a tree removal is approved by Bloomfield forester Steve Schuckman that the DPW crew moves in.
“Because the crew is small, they come back for the stumps,” Nesto said.
The department has a list of about 25 stumps to be removed. They will be ground down below ground level, topsoil will be tossed on the depression and grass seed will be scattered on top of this. Although his workers were cutting grass until a few weeks ago, Nesto said it is now too late in the season for grass seed. That will have to keep.
But back to talking about the winter at hand.
“We had our first snow meeting a few weeks ago,” he said.
The engineering and recreation departments were invited along with the police, school district, county, Office of Emergency Management, and Matthew Watkins, the township administrator.
“We do a pretty good job with snow removal,” Nesto said. “The biggest issue is impatience on the residents part and on mine.”
The impatience is because as soon as the snow stops, people want to get out of the house, on the road and go about their business. Salt helps. Bloomfield has 405 streets that add up to 103 miles. Fourteen of those street are under Essex County supervision.
“When it snows, it snows from Sylvan Road to Ampere Parkway,” Nesto said. “There could be more snow on Sylvan but it usually snows on all 405 streets. We have 250 tons of salt. That’s enough to salt the town twice.”
Streets around schools, crosswalks, and municipal properties are given priority for snow removal. Bus stops are also cleared, especially along the curb area so commuters do not have to hike over piles of snow.
“I thank the mayor and council for giving us the tools,” Nesto said. “But snow is pretty stressful.”
One new tool most DPW vehicles received last year is a GPS system.
Each system has a computer memory. So if a resident complains about the speed of a plow going down their street, or states that it never came down their street at all, the speed and location of the vehicle are stored in a memory chip and can be reviewed.
“It takes about eight hours to plow and salt the entire town without breakdowns,” Nesto said. “If there’s 10 inches of snow, give me eight hours. The last houses to get shoveled out belong to Bloomfield DPW employees.”
That is when they get home.