Call it Byron W. Brown's pothole guarantee.
Buffalo's mayor says he wants to send a "powerful" message that City Hall is serious about doing a good job delivering services. So he will soon announce a new policy guaranteeing that crews will fill all potholes within 24 hours after receiving complaints.
"We want to show the citizens of this community that we are taking every step to improve services," Brown said.
The mayor announced his intentions at a CitiStat meeting Friday, and the acting public works commissioner didn't flinch.
"I would feel comfortable doing that," said Daniel E. Kreuz of the 24-hour pothole-patching guarantee. "We have the staff."
In fact, public works officials said they're confident crews are already dealing with the vast majority of pothole complaints within a day.
The city's accountability panel also directed crews to do a more thorough job keeping track of how many potholes they fill each day. Public works officials said work records already track most repairs, but they acknowledged that smaller jobs sometimes aren't logged if they are problems that crews see while en route to other calls and decide to fix them on the spot.
On the same day CitiStat officials were talking about efforts to mend pocked streets, Peter Gembala called a Common Council office to complain about potholes in the Bailey-Kensington neighborhood. He said one hole devoured his tire, causing his vehicle's frame to hit the pavement.
"I've driven in better conditions in Iraq," said Gembala, who served a tour of duty overseas in the U.S. Army. "But I know this is what happens with freezes. This is Buffalo."
The only exception to the 24-hour pothole guarantee would be during the weekends, officials said. Crews don't work on Saturdays or Sundays, so any complaints that come in over the weekend would be addressed on Monday.
Kreuz also noted sometimes people who call to complain about potholes are really red-flagging a different problem.
"Utility companies are constantly cutting streets for repairs," he said, adding that the city immediately contacts the utility in question when a complaint is lodged.
Buffalo's pothole problems have been far less severe this season, thanks to a mild winter.
"There have been very few freeze-thaw cycles," Kreuz said.
Depending on the weather, the city typically fills between 7,000 and 10,000 potholes each season. Two years ago, the city started using a different mixture to fill potholes, a compound that better withstands cold weather. Kreuz said the city also has been spending more money on street repaving in recent years, an investment that has helped to reduce the number of potholes.
People can report potholes by calling the mayor's complaint line at 851-4890, or by calling public works crews at 851-5685.
What if crews can't live up to the mayor's 24-hour guarantee? First Deputy Mayor Steven M. Casey quipped that Brown will hit the streets, shovel in hand. Not to be outdone, the mayor revealed his own backup plan, saying Casey will be drafted.