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Better snow removal coordination among responders needed for Jefferson County

By Staff | Feb 26, 2010

There needs to be more communication and cooperation between the local, state Department of Highways, the Town, and College in the systematic removal of snow in big storms around Shepherdstown.

The County does not have a role in snow removal except as overseeing emergency operations. Nevertheless, we provided the DOH with a dozen, very expensive digital handheld radios that enabled them to listen to the 911 dispatching scanner and also gave them access to a dedicated frequency to talk back and forth with the National Guard.

There was no legal barrier to cooperation.

Ranson and Charles Town’s public works department, they told me, routinely clear one another’s roads where the two towns abut.

Fairmont and part of South King went uncleared for days, which are state roads in the County but abutting the Town. I contacted DOH. They said they simply missed that piece of street area. The town could have cleared it. Likewise there are times when a Shepherd University snow vehicle could take some snow off the small hill on Shepherd Grade neat the entrance into the college dorms.

My point is mutual aid agreements always exist between police fire and ambulance agencies. Randy Crowl of the local DOH said to me there are no legal impediments to the same in snow removal. There are limits to the “We-can’t-do-that-cause-we’ll-get-sued” argument. Sometimes the public safety trumps legalistic skittishness.

Residents on Shepherd Grade should know that a delay also occurred in snow removal because the snow truck clearing Shepherd Grade had a flat caused by using chains and it took over a day for the private firm in Martinsburg to get it back in to service.

Jim Surkamp

County Commissioner