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Hamburg residents vent frustration with slow snow removal

Hundreds or more Hamburg residents sat in their homes Saturday night, yet another day waiting for a snowplow to come down their streets after the snowstorm that began early last week.

“It’s more a sense of frustration than of selfishness or entitlement,” said Maggie Burke Pielich of Deacon Street, a dead-end road off Camp Road with 15 houses on it.

The town promised that every street in the town would get at least one pass by Saturday night. It didn’t look it.

Pielich said her street looks like it’s been plowed, because a neighbor two houses in from Camp has a plow and plowed that section. But the rest had not seen a plow in five days, she said Saturday.

Residents on other streets took to snowblowing and shoveling their way out, and at least one Springville man came up with a high-lift and plowed a path in some neighborhoods.

Pielich wasn’t the only unhappy resident.

Even after the town lifted its driving ban late Saturday morning, comments on the town’s emergency services Facebook page came from throughout the town, and many weren’t satisfied.

“What happened to Hamburg???? Why are we so far behind other communities????? When will I see a plow or any sort of snow removal equipment,” one resident living off East Eden Road commented.

“College St. Isn’t plowed and needs baby formula. Elderly couple across the street need medication. It’s great that the ban is lifted but did you forget us over here?” said one post.

“Buried in Lakeview,” read another.

Pielich said her street normally is well-plowed. But she said three people with heart conditions and two who take insulin live on her street.

“They talk about Hamburg being the town that friendship built,” she said, referring to the town’s motto. “It’s more like the town that’s been abandoned.”

Town officials say that’s how they feel, too.

The town asked Erie County for more equipment Tuesday morning, but it wasn’t until Friday night that 20 high-lifts and more plows arrived, Supervisor Steven Walters said.

But he said the first decision that hurt the town occurred when the Thruway diverted traffic off the highway at Exit 56 (Blasdell/Milestrip Road) and Exit 57 (Camp Road.) Tractor-trailers got bogged down and then stuck on Milestrip Road, South Park Avenue, Camp and Southwestern Boulevard.

“Right off from the word ‘go,’ we were behind the eight-ball because we couldn’t reach the subdivisions,” he said.

As the snow piled up – the town’s total was more than 80 inches – plows were “essentially useless,” he said. When the weather broke Wednesday, the town still could not get to the subdivisions.

“We spent almost the entire day removing the vehicles, removing the tractor-trailers off the roads so we could reach the neighborhoods,” Walters said Saturday. “Up until last night (Friday) we had not received any additional resources for snow removal.”

The town did contract for four high-lifts, and one of the operators was charging residents to clear their driveways while he was supposed to be working for the town, Walters said.

Highway Superintendent Tom Best Sr. “told the gentleman his services were no longer needed,” Walters said.

Walters said there were 1,600 pieces of snow fighting equipment in South Buffalo.

“If we had had that amount of equipment allotted in the Town of Hamburg, our snow-removal process would be essentially complete,” he said.

Walters said every street in town would have gotten at least one pass by Saturday night. But street clearing is a three-step process: first with a high-lift, then a plow and possibly a different high-lift to widen the path, then a third plow to clean up the street.

“I understand the residents are frustrated and wondering why it’s taking so long,” Walters said. “This isn’t going to be an operation that ends tonight. This is going to be something that is going to take a lot more time.”

It’s not just residents. Emergency responders, working with little sleep the past week, tried to get the word out.

“While I can’t imagine what it is like to be stranded in my house for 5 days, I do understand what it is like to not go home and tend to my family, and my house for 5 days,” one worker posted on the emergency services Facebook page. “We will get through this.”

Not all the comments on the emergency services page were negative.

“Thank you for the tireless and unceasing efforts of you and your crew!”

“THANK YOU for all you have done and continue to do. … you ARE appreciated!”