Derry Public Works Ready If and When It Snows

Mike Fowler’s snow removal system is a turnkey operation. But he’s hoping he won’t have to turn that key for a while.

Fowler, Derry Director of Public Works, has been working on winter preparations since last summer. With a system fine-tuned over the years, he and his crews are “ready to go” and ready for “whatever will be thrown at us.”

Fowler works on “winter” in all four seasons, he said. In the summer his crews make sure all their trucks and plows are in good working order. September is the time for a final inspection of the machinery, identifying problems and purchasing the parts to fix them.

“I took a phone call a few minutes ago about a plow part that needs to be fixed,” he said.

They stockpile road salt in advance, and have 2,500 tons in a highway shed. “That’s about 75 percent of what we need,” Fowler said.

If the town sees successive “snow events” like it did last year, Fowler is set for a few weeks and can always order more. “We have some back-up,” he said.

And he’s filled the two positions eliminated in last spring’s budget deliberations and restored in the Oct. 13 special election. “We were down one Highway truck driver and one laborer in Parks and Recreation,” he said. The positions were filled by Dec. 1.

His big issue is finding contractors, Fowler said. The town plows with a combination of its own people and hired labor, and not all the contracted drivers come back every year. “We have to adjust for that,” he said.

Superintendent of Operations Alan Cote is currently mapping out the plow routes, according to Fowler.

His budget for snow events is also in good shape, Fowler said. In the May budget vote a majority of the Council voted to cut his overtime budget by $60,000. The chief use of overtime is for snow removal, Fowler said. But the Special Election also restored his overtime budget to the original $125,000.

Fowler is grateful for November and December’s mild weather. “We have had a good break so far,” he said. “Every week we don’t have snow brings us closer to April 1.”

But, he added, “If it snows tomorrow, the crews are ready and prepared.”