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Insights into storm response sought at South Buffalo summit meeting

How to keep curious drivers off the streets and sidewalks cleared during a snowstorm was the focus Monday of a summit meeting among about 50 South Buffalo block club leaders and government officials.

The meeting was held to gather insights about the response to last month’s historic lake-effect storms, which hit South Buffalo particularly hard.

“The problem of cars driving in the way of the plows was a major obstacle,” Todd Espinosa, a Seneca Street resident, said after the hour-long meeting in the Tosh Collins Senior Center.

Ideas for better enforcing a driving ban included Assemblyman Mickey Kearns’ proposal to create a Department of Motor Vehicles database of “essential personnel” who should be allowed on the roads and Espinosa’s thought to double or even triple fines for skirting the ban.

South District Police Chief Thomas Moran told the crowd that although police issued a number of summonses to sightseeing drivers, he thought most residents respected the driving ban.

Another resident wondered how sidewalks, especially those belonging to the frail or elderly, could be kept clear to ensure safe passage.

Steven J. Stepniak, the city’s Public Works commissioner, urged residents to call the city’s 311 Call and Resolution Center for help with sidewalks.

“It’s almost impossible to go and do every sidewalk but we want to help the ones that really need assistance,” he replied. “Once the streets were clear we went right into a sidewalk mode and it worked out very well for us.”

Despite the hardship the storm imposed, there were few gripes or complaints by block club leaders about the government response.

“I think they’re all pretty satisfied with the service that they got from the city and the county and the cooperation between all the groups,” said Linda Friedenberg, president of the South Buffalo Coalition of Block Clubs, which organized Monday’s meeting.

The Western New York legislative delegation announced Monday it will hold a roundtable discussion Jan. 9 at the Erie Community College South Campus with representatives of state departments.

email: jpopiolkowski@buffnews.com