Brookhaven Town Supervisor Ed Romaine Wednesday announced his recommendations to help improve the town’s snow removal operations less than two weeks after its highway department was slammed for its lackluster response to a powerful winter storm.
Romaine’s proposals to the town board and the next highway superintendent include increasing spending on heavy equipment, decreasing insurance requirements for private snow plow contractors and making the pay to plow operators equal to that of surrounding towns.
Town officials have complained that some of the equipment used by the highway department was inadequate and broke down while clearing local roads blanketed by heavy snow.
“These men and women have dealt successfully with numerous snow storms in the past,” Romaine said of the highway department staffers.
Brookhaven was one of Long Island’s hardest hit towns on Feb. 8 when the nor’easter blew through the region and dumped nearly three feet of snow on some areas. The storm closed several major roadways—including the Long Island Expressway, which became a virtual parking lot with more than 150 abandoned cars strewn throughout the highway—and left many Brookhaven residents snowed in through the weekend, some into the work week.
In his remarks Wednesday, Romaine listed several other proposals, including a plea to New York State lawmakers to pass legislation that allows for raising the cap for the expenditure of heavy equipment. Romaine also suggested that all private snow plow companies have a transponder or GPS device so the highway department can track their progress during a storm.
Public pressure mounted on the town amid the snow emergency and led to the resignation of acting-highway superintendent Mike Murphy, who called out sick during the storm with a toothache, according to reports. John Capella was named his replacement until the town votes for a new superintendent in a March 5 special election.
Romaine has shared in the harsh criticism from frustrated residents for vacationing in Jamaica as residents struggled through blistering temperatures and shoveled mounds of snow. Some were so outraged that they created a Facebook page, dubbed “Recall Ed Romaine & Fire Dan Panico,” which has more than 2,200 likes. Panico, a town councilman, also serves as deputy supervisor.
The supervisor last week apologized for his absence and told the Press that he regrets the trip. He also noted that the town holds no power over the highway department because it’s an independent agency, run by an elected official.
“I want to particularly express my thanks to the local civic associations, business and community leaders and especially many of our residents for voicing their concerns and hearing our recommendations for handling future snow and weather-related emergency situations in the Town of Brookhaven,” Romaine said Wednesday.
Since Romaine’s return last week, he has met with local officials and Capella to discuss the blizzard and future snow removal operations.
The town may have to act quick as a another storm threatens the area. The National Weather Service is tracking a system offshore that may bring “widespread significant precipitation” to Long Island this weekend.