Mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedy agreed on Tuesday night to work hand in hand with the Lynn Council’s Public Works Committee and a task force of public safety managers to find ways to improve the city’s response to snow emergencies.
The unprecedented, in Lynn at least, snow commission will include the three city councilors on the Council’s Public Works subcommittee, DPW Commissioner Andrew Hall, Police Chief Kevin Coppinger, Fire Chief Dennis Carmody, Inspectional Services Director Michael Donovan Emergency Management Director Captain Thomas Hines and the Mayor.
The Public Works Committee met Tuesday night in the main council chambers at 7:15 p.m. as a Committee of the Whole Council, for the express purpose of authorizing the snow commission and charging them with an eight week review of operations, specifically in the Public Works Department but in other public safety departments as well.
The commission’s work is not expected to yield results for the current snow season, which saw a near record – so far – snow fall that had hamstrung the city of Lynn and many other communities around Greater Boston.
The commission will meet on Tuesday night’s over the next eight weeks to share information and discuss options for improving the city’s response to severe winter weather in the future.
The department heads also took the opportunity to update the council on the status of snow removal operations and the impact the winter of 2015 has had on their operating budgets.
The hardest hit department, as one might guess, has been public works which began the year with a $785,200 budget for snow removal and according to Hall has already spent $2,795,000, with several weeks of winter and potential snowfalls still possible.
Fire Chief Carmody told the council that due to the need to keep extra staff on the each of the engine houses and ambulances in the city, he has spent an extra $109,000 in overtime for his department in the past six weeks since the snow began to fly.
On a positive note, Carmody noted that there has only been one multi-alarm fire in the city in the past six weeks, despite the fact that winter time is often the time of year when firefighters have to deal with several multiple alar fires.
Still, Carmody told the Council that he has heard this winter referred to as “a once in a lifetime” season and he himself is hoping it will be a “once in a career winter. . .I never want to have to deal with this again,” he said to chuckles from council members.
Police Chief Coppinger noted the department has spent an extra $18,000 in police officer overtime, mostly to support the DPW’s snow removal operations and Emergency Management Director Captain Hines told the council that he has already overspent the overtime budget for his department by about $1,300, preparing for the possibility of emergency shelters and opening the emergency operations center during the three largest storms.
Hall said his department is currently focusing on snow removal operations, aimed at widening the city’s main streets to ease traffic congestion and provide greater ease of access for emergency vehicles.