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COMPLAINTS STIR EFFORTS FOR BETTER-PLOWED SIDE STREETS

Hiring more snowplow drivers. Buying new equipment. Contracting with private snow-removal operators.

Those are some of the changes that Buffalo is considering after widespread criticism of its response to this month's 60-plus inches of snow.

The Common Council, motivated by constituent complaints, on Tuesday authorized formation of a 12-member task force to look at how the city can do a better job of plowing.

Lawmakers said the task force will look at a wide range of solutions, with one central need in mind: how to clear neighborhood side streets.

Like so many major storms, the recent, two-week snowfall left Buffalo's narrow side streets clogged with snow and parked cars, prompting hundreds of complaints.

"Let's be frank, it's the age-old question of why streets in the suburbs are clear and our streets are not," said University Council Member Kevin J. Helfer, who proposed the task force.

Helfer said the group will look at the need for more staff and equipment, as well as parking and towing concerns.

A recent Buffalo News analysis found that City Hall has about half the drivers and equipment per mile of roadway as most of its suburbs.

"The issue is simply the side streets," Council President James W. Pitts said. "When we get consistent snow, the side streets are sacrificed."

Council members were quick to praise the city's snow crews, which worked 12-hour days without a day off during most of the two-week snowfall. Yet the Council members want changes and appear willing to pay for some of them by setting aside more money in the budget for drivers and trucks.

"They just couldn't keep up," Delaware Council Member Alfred T. Coppola said. "We didn't have the manpower. We didn't have the machines."

One lawmaker said several city workers complained that the number of snow-removal workers and pieces of equipment is about half of what it was during the Blizzard of '77.

"We have to look at that and make adjustments at budget time," Masten Council Member Byron W. Brown said.

Staff and equipment are just two of the issues Helfer wants addressed. He also thinks that the group should consider training other city employees to drive a plow and better mapping to ensure that all city streets are cleared.

During the recent snowfall, many residents complained that their streets went days without seeing a plow, a contention that the city has denied.

Helfer also wants the task force to look at what the city can do to remedy its parking and towing headaches. The problem is especially bad on the city's East and West sides, where streets are narrow and homes lack driveways.

The result was that hundreds of cars were left on the streets, blocking the paths of plows.

The task force is to be made up of three Council members, three members of the Masiello administration, three officials from neighboring communities and three Buffalo residents.

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