First major storm of season severe, but problems minimal


The report card is complete and according to Arnie Vecchione, the Director of Public Works in Johnston, “the men and women in this department did a tremendous job during the recent snow storm!”

Vecchione went as far as to say “there were very few complaints – maybe five at the most – and they all came from residents complaining about damaged mailboxes. But we’ll take care of those; Johnston is one of the few communities in Rhode Island that reimburses people in that regard.”

He pointed out that in most cases the mailboxes are brittle and when there are freezing temperatures that because of the wind chill factor make it feel like its well below zero, the posts holding them snap and that’s when the damage occurs.

Perhaps of the utmost importance was, as Vecchione said Monday inside his warm office, “there were no major breakdowns as far as equipment is concerned and we didn’t have any injuries; our people again did a fantastic job under some real difficult conditions.”

In all, the snow that reportedly totaled upwards of a foot was plowed by a total of 25 vehicles, 17 of which belong to the Town of Johnston an additional eight that were hired as private vendors.

Mayor Joseph Polisena was very pleased with the efforts of town workers during the first major storm of the season.

“We did very well, we got our people out at about three o’clock in the morning the day the storm hit. We had pretreated the roads for the two days previous with the brine truck and salt,” said Polisena. “We also sanded the roads. Our crew did a great job. We teamed up with members of the school maintenance department and we helped each other. It was all hands on deck.”

For the type of storm and the challenges it presented, Polisena said that he would rate the services provided with an “A” grade. He said that hills presented a problem, as did blowing snow that covered treated roads. While the mayor’s office did receive a few complaints, he still believed that crews did the best job possible.

“Our guys are really dedicated I have to say, they did a fabulous job, I was very proud.” said the mayor. He also said that there was no major damage caused to town infrastructure due to the storm. “Overall, the storm was expensive, I don’t have the numbers in yet, but it was expensive storm.”

Vecchione said that once the forecast called for freezing temperatures and up to a foot of snow, the Johnston DPW began pre-treating the roads last Wednesday and Thursday.

When the snow started to fall, Arnie’s Army, as someone called the entire DPW staff that even includes office personnel who in some cases worked 36 non-stop hours, was ready to roll and as the director reiterated: “Our people went through the entire storm perfectly.”

Vecchione explained that “we have five districts in town and each of those areas has a foreman. Those people run the show out there [on the roads] – even with the vendors – and they all did an outstanding job.”

Although much of the snow was cleaned up Thursday and into Friday, Vecchione said “we had to bring some people in Saturday because of drifts.”

He said areas that did have huge drifts, which was the result of wind blown snow, included but were not limited to Oak Swamp Dam where the snow blows across the frozen water into Reservoir Road. Likewise, the DPW had to remove drifts on Peck Hill Road and Central Avenue.

“It’s customary to have drifts in those areas when there’s wind blown snow,” Vecchione added. “But let’s hope this is the last snow we’ll have this winter”

There were also several unique happenings during the storm, one of which came from the efforts of DPW staffer Peter DelPonte, one of Johnston’s most noted volunteer chefs, and took place inside the Johnston Senior Center that the town turned into a warming center during the storm.

DelPonte, who like Vecchione is one of Johnston’s most noted volunteer chefs, made a special batch of beef stew as well as chicken wings and hot dogs that DPW workers enjoyed during what mostly resulted in brief breaks of battling the storm.

Yet another event, as Vecchione called it, came when Johnston Building Inspector Ben Nascenzi got behind the wheel of a huge former U.S. Army vehicle that the town acquired and is equipped with a plow and he also worked non-stop plowing snow during the storm.

“I hope he didn’t damage any of those mailboxes,” Vecchione said with a wide smile on his face. “But that’s the kind of man Ben is; he’s always willing to help whenever and wherever needed.”


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