BY TOM DALTON
---- — SALEM — The city is recruiting a youthful band of snow shovelers to help clear the downtown during major snowstorms.
The shovel brigade will focus on areas that city workers have trouble getting to right away — sections of sidewalks next to crosswalks and curb cuts used by the disabled.
“During a big storm, we may not get to crosswalks till 48 hours after the storm,” said John Tomasz, director of the Department of Public Services. “For a lot of businesses in the downtown, that’s a long time to wait.”
The snow shovelers also will clear snow in front of city or public properties in the downtown.
The program is a joint effort by the city, the Northshore Workforce Investment Board, the Boys & Girls Club of Greater Salem, the North Shore Community Development Coalition and others. Several organizations are signing up shovelers who can be called out in a storm.
“We are a pedestrian-friendly community in so many respects,” Mayor Kim Driscoll said in a statement. “With so many people living and working downtown especially, we wanted to put extra effort into ensuring our city is accessible and walkable, even following a major snow event.”
The shovelers, most of whom will be in their teens or early 20s, will be paid $8 an hour by the city, according to Dominick Pangallo, an aide to Driscoll.
The shovelers won’t be called out in every storm, only when Tomasz feels he needs them in the downtown. The extra help will take some of the burden off city crews, he said.
“If I’ve got my guys working 24 hours, I’ve got to give them a break,” he said. “This will get things done a little quicker for the public.”
Private property owners are required to remove snow and ice from sidewalks no later than six hours after a storm ends. Businesses that don’t comply with the ordinance face fines of up to $100.
In addition to this downtown program, the city offers snow shoveling assistance to the elderly and infirm. For more information on that program, go to the city website (www.salem.com) and click on “Snow Shoveling Assistance Program” under the Public Works department.
Tom Dalton can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.