The post-Christmas blizzard that buried Islip with as much as two feet of snow may cost the town $700,000 in snow removal costs, according to the Department of Public Works commissioner.
That total, however, is below what the town paid in late December 2009 when a similar storm hit the region.
While timing of this year's storm, starting on Sunday and running into Monday, helped reduce overtime costs, the town this year was also able to gain some cost savings from the use of GPS devices installed in the vehicles of private snow removal contractors hired by Islip.
"We did catch several contractors not doing the job they agreed to do for the town," said Rich Baker, commissioner with the Department of Public Works. "I guess they did not realize that with the GPS devices in their vehicles that we could watch them on a board in my office. We hired six trucks from one private contractor and could see that four of the trucks had not moved. That company will not be paid by the town and they will not work for us again."
Overall, he said the town was pleased with the response from private contractors who play a major role in assisting town employees with snow removal efforts.
As of late Wednesday afternoon, Baker reported that the 1,100 miles of streets and the 110 municipal parking lots the town is responsible for cleaning are in good shape.
While each storm offers unique challenges to snow removal crews, he said the strong winds and blowing snow with this blizzard made the job particularly difficult.
"We had winds of 60 miles per hour and in some cases had streets with power lines down," Baker said. "Our crews are instructed not to go down streets where there are lines down. We don't know if they are live wires or cable wires. As a result, those streets are not cleared until LIPA makes repairs."
Throughout the storm, he said crews were particularly challenged to clear streets in the more hilly areas of the town in hamlets such as Ronkonkoma and Hauppauge.
"There are some very narrow streets in the Islip portion near Lake Ronkonkoma where there are also many cars parked on the streets," Baker said. "Knowing that, we have to make sure we have the right drivers and the right equipment to do the job."
Overall, Baker said it's difficult to compare storms and the challenges each present to snow removal crews. However, in 35 years working for municipalities dating back to his first job with the Town of Hempstead in Nassau County, he said the biggest change he has seen is the expectations local residents have with snow removal.
"With this storm it stopped snowing at 9 a.m. and some people expect everything to be back to normal three hours later," Baker said. "That's just not realistic and there is no way that's going to happen."
But as with every storm, the town officials will meet to discuss its snow removal efforts to see what worked and where improvements can be made.
"This is something we will be doing before the next storm," Baker added.
Over at Long Island MacArthur Airport, commercial fight operations we nearly back to normal. While the airport remained open during the storm, its two major carriers Southwest Airlines and US Airways, canceled flights. However, as of Wednesday evening, flights were arriving and departing either on time or close to schedule.