, Derry, New Hampshire

January 9, 2014

Editorial: Town must listen to snow plowing complaints

Derry News

---- — Many Derry residents are upset about the job done plowing the town’s roads after last week’s storm and the bitter cold that followed. They are flooding the Derry News with complaints.

Resident Tracy Beaton told our reporter it was tough to get home last Friday with Derry’s slush-covered, slippery roads.

“I thought Saturday, at least, would be better, but no and I ended up sliding everywhere,” she said.

Complaints were also coming in through our Facebook page.

“I thought access to hospital should be plowed well,” said one commenter. “That would include Route 28 and Rockingham Road. It never is. With the taxes we pay Derry gets a fail mark for safety in this town.”

“Where do our taxes go in Derry,” asked another commenter. “Sure, the roads are going to suck to some extent (I mean, we live in NH). But it’s pretty atrocious in Derry when it’s significantly better in Londonderry.”

“Roads were HORRIBLE after the last storm,” said a third commenter. “I went out Saturday evening and they were still a mess in most areas.”

But town officials aren’t having any of it. They are defending the job done by plow crews and saying they have received few complaints.

“I think we did a great job,” said Larry Budreau, acting town administrator.

Budreau said Monday he had received only one email complaint about the condition of Derry’s roads. Budreau and Public Works Director Michael Fowler both said the unusual cold made clearing roads difficult.

“When it’s that cold, it creates a challenge for snow removal,” Budreau said. “When it’s under 15 degrees, road salt has no effect.”

“The warmer storms, the salt is effective, (not with) colder storms,” Fowler said. “That’s a key point for residents to be aware of.”

Indeed, town officials formed a united front against residents with several town councilors arguing that complaints were few and the roads were fine.

“Out of 34,000 residents, I heard only one complaint from a Derry resident,” Councilor Mark Osborne said. “For me, the roads were quite navigable.”

Councilor Tom Cardon said he had heard no major complaints about the road conditions in town.

Councilor Phyllis Katsakiores said she did hear from a few residents about the slush level on the roads.

“Some said it would have been nice if they came around a second time to clean up all the slush,” she said. “But we do the best we can.”

Councilor Neil Wetherbee said he heard from only one resident and said that throwing down road treatments that are ineffective is neither fiscally nor environmentally prudent.

“I found conditions to be less than ideal almost everywhere I went,” he said. “I think we need to be realistic. We live in New Hampshire. Expecting bare roads and speed limit driving after nearly a foot of snow over 30 hours, accompanied and followed by sub-zero temperatures, is just not realistic.”

Town officials could stand to listen more and dodge criticism less.

While there is some truth in Wetherbee’s observation, it’s unfortunate that town officials are so defensive.

When residents complain about the condition of the roads after a storm, the proper response is not to tell them they are wrong. The better choice is to get the plows out and clear the roads -- and try to do a better job the next time.