BY PAUL HUMMEL
HILLSDALE – In response to overwhelming disapproval by residents and social media users of his criticism of the Hillsdale Department of Public Works (DPW) during Winter Storm Stella, Mayor Doug Frank issued an apology to borough residents and certain town employees for his official email blast that blamed the DPW for the unsafe road conditions during the March 14 snow storm.
“We know that this created a tremendous inconvenience for everyone,” he added in the email. “I apologize for this poor performance and assure you that we will take all necessary corrective action.”
At the March 16 council meeting, Frank said, “I think that after riding the roads, I think it was only fair to be honest and tell people that the main roads were in terrible condition. I meant, and I think it was factual, that the DPW had not gotten to salt the roads as early as possible.”
“They worked their butts off,” he said of the DPW workers. “I haven’t spoken to the media since they posted all those remarks because I don’t want them to misinterpret and think I was blaming the DPW for anything. I apologize for that. I was not trying to stiff it on the DPW or lack of dedication by those workers.”
The mayor reiterated his chagrin about social media comments about his email blast and said the entire borough as a collective “we” should shoulder the responsibility for the terrible road conditions during the snow storm and not just the DPW.
“It’s a shame, but it’s not the facts,” he said about such reports. “I apologize for the conditions of the roads and I feel responsible for it.”
Frank mentioned that he invited Interim DPW Superintendent Dan O’Rourke to the council meeting to inform the public about his department’s performance during the storm, but O’Rourke was unable to attend after working almost non-stop for 24 hours. Both men had met earlier in the afternoon to review possible remedies to prevent a similar occurrence in the future.
The mayor also mentioned that DPW workers had a tremendous amount of difficulty in plowing the streets with the department’s smaller trucks, which were not able to gain the necessary traction on the two to three inches of ice that was under about six inches of fresh snow.
Frank also mentioned that he received numerous emails from residents about his comments, “some of which were nasty.”
“Unfortunately, Mayor Doug Frank chose to publicly criticize and humiliate the borough’s DPW, rather than discussing the real reason for the poor showing,” Sheinfield wrote. “Two years ago, after the latest snow storm debacle, we learned that the snow plows in the borough were more than 30 years old and broke down at the drop of the hat.”
Sheinfield went on to write that, in 2015, Democrat mayoral and council candidates suggested the borough borrow money to replace older snow removal equipment and trucks, but Frank, as the Republican mayoral candidate, criticized their proposal and blamed current Democrats on the Hillsdale Council for the town’s poor snow removal performance in previous years.
Another resident, Robin Payne, also expressed her disapproval of the borough’s handling of the snow removal in a letter to the Pascack Press.
“Once again, the Hillsdale DPW continues to disappoint,” she wrote. “This past snowstorm cleanup was horrible and the town was mortified by the press on it.”
Payne also wrote that she made a phone call to the borough’s DPW office the day following the storm that trucks were piled up snow on the corner of Magnolia Avenue and Lawrence Street to the effect that it made it impossible for students to properly exit school buses stopping at that intersection, created a visibility problem for drivers and blocked up the street’s sewer.
She stated that, despite her phone call, the six-foot high mound of snow was never removed.
“Let’s hope we fix the problem next time,” she wrote.
During the council meeting, Borough Administrator/CFMO Jonathan DeJoseph stated that the borough has already ordered an additional large truck for the DPW to aid the department’s snow removal capabilities.
“The DPW Council Committee will be working to improve the service of the DPW over the next few days to come up with a remedy for snowplowing and salting services,” he also said.
“We will be looking on how to improve it [snow removal],” added Frank.