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City set to pay for snow job amid push to do it in-house

Tis’ the season  for the City of Buffalo to start preparing for snow removal on sidewalks.

And it’s stirred some debate in City Hall over whether it’s a better idea for the city to purchase its own equipment to do the job rather than contract out the work.

For now, the city is prepared to contract with two local companies – Ground Control Inc. and KD Professional Services - that bid for the sidewalk snow removal program citywide, said Public Works Commissioner Steven J. Stepniak, who presented the proposal that will be voted on at Tuesday's Common Council meeting.

The pilot program started three years ago and targets sidewalks that abut city-owned properties along major bus routes.

The proposal calls for Ground Control Inc. to be paid $100,000 to clean sidewalks on Broadway as well as Clinton and Genesee streets and East Delavan, Elmwood and Fillmore avenues.

KD Professional Services will get $60,000 for runs on Bailey Avenue.

The companies - which were the same bidders as last year - presented “the best value on these runs” this year, Stepniak said. They must remove snow when it reaches depths of three inches or greater.

But Lovejoy Council Member Richard A. Fontana pointed out that the city has spent about $160,000 each year over the last three years, but because the last two winters were mild “contractors did not earn their pay.” He suggested the city use the $160,000 to buy its own equipment and have city workers do the job.

“I think we should have the right piece of equipment on hand ready to go,” Fontana said. “It’s amazing how fast you can clear snow with the right piece of equipment. I think there’s equipment out there we can invest in with these funds and do it in-house.”

The challenge is that the Public Works Department does not always have available manpower, Stepniak said.

Niagara Council Member David A. Rivera said he understands and supports Stepniak’s position to contract with vendors.

“We would like the city to have the capacity to do everything in-house, but sometimes that’s not real because we really don’t have the capacity in terms of manpower to do the work that we would like to do,” Rivera said. “I’d rather side on the side of caution and have the capacity there to go at it full strength when we have a blizzard or a surprise.”

Despite his qualms about manpower, Stepniak said he is looking for grants to purchase equipment.

“I think we’re all kind of on the right track,” Stepniak said. “It’s just getting to that point where everybody’s satisfied.”

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