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Lack of plow drivers a concern for communities as winter approaches

Lack of plow drivers a concern for communities as winter approaches
Lack of plow drivers a concern for communities as winter approaches 02:56

ATTLEBORO - The snow plow blades are sitting idle for now at the North Attleboro Department of Public Works (DPW), and the sand pile is stocked and full. 

"It is a very difficult season to plan for," said DPW Director Mike Hollowell. But planning has been well underway for months for whatever winter brings, though the town could use a half dozen more private contractors to fill in the planning blanks. "You get breakdowns, you get people call in sick, but one of the biggest concerns you have is if you have a large snowstorm over 24 inches. Where a lot of smaller pickups like we have here just won't be able to push the snow back."

The first lesson Attleboro Mayor Cathleen DeSimone said she is learning is that timely snow removal is a top priority.  She's facing her first winter on the job and also facing a shortage of drivers. "I just think there's opportunities out there for people to make money. And plowing's a really hard job, the hours are long, it's dark, it's dangerous."

These municipalities, like many others, are offering incentives to entice new drivers like signing bonuses, bonuses for perfect attendance, and in North Attleboro, a minimum payment guarantee even if it's a mild winter.

The city of Boston also rolled out its winter preparation plans on Wednesday.

"Winter doesn't stand a chance in Boston because we are ready," Mayor Michelle Wu declared at a press conference in front of a large salt pile. While it's not a snow plow driver shortage, it's other issues like emergency beds with a growing migrant population and a shelter system already stressed.

"Providers have added an additional 120 emergency shelter beds and 55 warming spaces this fall. In cold and inclement weather no one will be turned away," said Sheila Dillon, Boston's Chief of Housing. Boston's snow-fighting totals are 44,000 tons of salt and nearly 900 pieces of equipment that can be deployed. But after a mild winter like last season, many are thinking like the mayor of Attleboro.

"I'm pretty sure Mother Nature will come through for me. I hope," said DeSimone.

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