Winter Storm Dec 17

A plow operator for the town of Foxboro clears snow from the sidewalks along South Street during the storm on Dec. 17.

On the eve of what is shaping up as another significant snowfall, town officials this week pledged to do a better job with storm cleanup, particularly in and around the town center.

Responding to a plea from Seth Ferguson of 23 Bird St., selectmen Chairman Mark Elfman, who lives on Main Street just off the north end of the Common rotary, conceded that snowbanks and other obstacles have made some locations a hazard to pedestrians.

“There are times when it seems like it takes a while to clear out certain areas of the downtown,” Elfman said. “I hear what you’re saying. I think we have to forward this to DPW.”

Ferguson, who formerly chaired the town advisory committee, told board members that snow removal operations were lacking after several recent storms, with some sidewalks still not cleared more than a week later.

“If you’re trying to walk around the Common you might have to walk in the street or climb over a snowbank,” he said.

In some cases, he said, this may have resulted from private property owners not shoveling sidewalks or street plows throwing snow up onto sidewalks, effectively blocking them to foot traffic.

Ferguson termed the situation a “safety issue,” especially for senior citizens or pet owners attempting to traverse the area. He also said it compromised the “walkability” of Foxboro center — a particular focus of ongoing efforts to improve the local business climate.

“There is limited parking in some spots so we want to be able to say you can park here with relatively easy access,” Ferguson noted. “But if some of those walkways are blocked that can be a challenge.”

Town Manager William Keegan explained that clearing sidewalks leading to Foxboro’s school buildings remains the top priority.

“The last week or two was pretty difficult because we had storm after storm after storm, which made it difficult for us to get to the sidewalks in all areas,” he said.

Generally speaking, Keegan defended snow removal efforts, saying that repeat storms and temperatures swings have made for difficult conditions of late. But he acknowledged the timeliness of post-storm snow clean-up, especially in the town center, could be improved.

Keegan said this kind of cleanup work, which involves loading snow into dump trucks to remove it from the area, typically needs to be done in overnight hours to avoid disrupting traffic flow around the Common rotary, adding significantly to costs.

Keegan pledged to address the matter with public works Director Chris Gallagher.

“We’ll do the best we can to try and address it,” Keegan said.

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