Mayor says Irvington was ready for Winter Storm Stella

IRVINGTON, NJ — Mayor Tony Vauss said the township was ready to take on the nor’easter Winter Storm Stella on Monday, March 13, as it was set to hit the Tri-State area early Tuesday morning, March 14, and dump between 10 and 20 inches of snow.

“We’re preparing throughout the day and evening and we’ll be as prepared for tomorrow as possible,” said Vauss on Monday, March 13. “We have everything situated and now we’re waiting to see what happens. We’ll have warming stations set up at the Public Library in Civic Square and over at the Chris Gatling Center for people that need it and we’ll post information on Facebook and make the usual Reverse 9-1-1 calls to let people know where to go and what to do or who to contact in the case of an emergency.”

Essex County Executive Joseph DiVincenzo Jr. and Essex County Sheriff Armando Fontoura announced that Essex County’s “Code Blue” procedures were in effect due to extreme cold weather and snow in the forecast for Tuesday, March 14. Conditions for a Code Blue are defined as when the temperature drops to less than 15 degrees for a 48-hour period or when the wind chill is less than zero degrees.

Media weather forecasts have predicted as much as 18 to 20 inches of snow in some areas affected by Winter Storm Stella and Vauss said that means the four new Bobcat snow plows the township purchased last year and unveiled on Monday, Feb. 1, should be a big help with the snow plowing and removal on streets that previously would have been inaccessible to some of the bigger snow plows and equipment that the Department of Public Works uses.

Two years ago, Vauss gave DPW Director Jamel Holley and his work crews a “B-minus” in rating how they cleaned up after one big snowfall and a couple subsequent smaller ones. But this year, they both said they expect Irvington to get an “A-Plus,” when it comes to cleaning up the town after Tuesday, March 14.

“We had the equipment, but most of our big, heavy-duty front loaders can’t go down some of our smaller streets, so it becomes a problem, when you’ve got parking on both sides of the street and you’re trying to plow down the middle and you can’t fit,” Vauss said on Feb. 1, 2016. “We actually have one of these Bobcats. It’s an older model that was used on one of our smaller streets, Liberty Street, and it cleared the entire street out. So it was my thinking that, if we got one of these at least in each ward, we could have the heavy equipment go down the streets that it can go down and then we have the Bobcats clear out some of our smaller streets.”

Former Municipal Council President, former West Ward Councilman and 2014 mayoral candidate John Sowell now works in the Vauss administration as an aide to the mayor and serves as the point man on many of his initiatives, such as helping develop a comprehensive overall strategy and plan for coordinating and carrying out snow plowing and removal in Irvington, when a winter blizzard dumps multiple inches of snow on the town.

“We have roughly 64 miles of road in Irvington to plow,” Sowell said on Wednesday, Feb. 1. “Now with these new plows, we’ll have people assigned to specific streets and parts of town. The mayor asked us to come up with a plan to make sure no one is forgotten.”

The goal, Vauss said, is to get a better response time, when it comes to plowing the township’s streets and removing snow. But he said the functionality of the new piece of machinery is not limited to just cleaning up after snowfalls.

“This is going to give us a better response time, not only in removing snow, but there’s other attachments that we can add to clean up properties, vacant properties and properties with a large amount of debris, where we’ll be able to clean it up a lot faster,” Vauss said. “Some people think that the snow is supposed to be removed as soon as it stops. It doesn’t work that way. Our plan was to have the streets cleared, so that people can drive and get in and out within 48 hours, and we accomplished that goal. Can we always improve? Yes. And this is why this equipment is so important. We’re looking to improve on that to have these machines assigned to some of our smaller streets so automatically when it snows or things of that nature it can go right to that street and begin its work.”

Vauss said each one of the new Bobcats will be assigned and dedicated to a specific ward in town. He said it will let the DPW handle its business quicker and he won’t spare any expense, when it comes to giving Irvington’s residents and taxpayers the kind of quality, professional services that they want, need and pay for.

“It’s not a matter of how can we afford this it’s we need to afford this,” Vauss said. “We want to improve services for our residents. You pay a lot of money in overtime and things of that nature during snowstorms, during state of emergencies. And what this does is make us better-equipped to deal with these types of emergencies.”

Vauss said, “it’s about being proactive.” He said his administration wants to “make sure that we’re able to take care of our residents, service our residents and get the best bang for our bucks.”