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Mystic - Town of Groton Public Works Director Gary Schneider said Thursday that budgetary constraints and the need to first clear snow from town roads were the reasons for a delay in clearing parking spots along West Main Street after the Jan. 3 storm.
Schneider said the department followed the same procedure it has during the 30 years he has worked for the town and informed those who called that the snow that fell Friday would be removed on Monday.
On Jan. 8, members of the Downtown Mystic Merchants association sent a letter to all members of the newly elected Groton Town Council looking for answers about who made the decision not to clear snow until Monday and why. The merchants also asked for the councilors' help to prevent it from happening again.
They said the three-day delay meant customers and tourists were unable to find parking over the weekend.
"It is a sad statement to our residents and visitors that Downtown Mystic which receives the most amount of visitors in the whole state cannot clear snow from their parking spaces until several days after the snow stopped falling. This should be an embarrassment the Town quickly remedies," wrote merchants group President Judy Hartley to the councilors.
Since then, she said, several councilors have called and emailed her, offering their assistance and willingness to meet with the merchants to discuss the snow removal issue and any other concerns they have.
The state Department of Transportation clears West Main Street, otherwise known as Route 1, because it is a state road. The town public works department removes the snow from the parking spaces.
Schneider said there is no document that spells out the division of work but that has been the past practice.
He also said that during his time in the department, the public works department has never cleared the spots the day after a storm because crews are still busy clearing streets.
After the Friday snow, Schneider said, crews spent all day Friday and Saturday clearing streets. They then went home and rested on Sunday when, he said, rain was expected to melt the fluffy snow, which would have negated the need to clear the spots.
If he had sent out crews on Sunday, he said, the town would have had to pay them double time.
He said crews sometimes are sent downtown at 3 a.m., but the decision was made to wait four hours until starting time at 7 a.m. Monday to avoid overtime costs.