If the North Royalton Service Department was ever renamed, the “Proactive Department” might be the next-best fit. Because in weather situations like the relentless Winter Storm Harper, which dumped more than a foot of snow onto city streets in a matter of hours, and a subsequent day where temperatures rocketed into the high 40s and heavy rains fell for several hours turning Harper’s snow into a slushy, flood-like mess, crews at the North Royalton Service Department stand ready and are constantly one, if not maybe ten, steps ahead of Mother Nature.
“We are very, very proactive and we stay on top of our game,” said Nick Cinquepalmi, at the helm as Service Director for the past six years.
Though Cinquepalmi ultimately calls the shots, he makes it a point to credit not only his staff, but other city departments, for success, and who in the case of Winter Storm Harper, lent manpower to fight the snow and keep city streets accessible and safe for motorists.
In a snow event like Winter Storm Harper, it’s not unusual for service crews to go through upwards of 1,000 tons of salt. Ordering salt and keeping the department’s salt barn perpetually full is always on Cinquepalmi’s radar. The department has 16 employees and 20 vehicles – nine blue salt trucks and 11 pick-up trucks. Many of those vehicles are new, thanks to a push from Mayor Bob Stefanik. In years past, dated equipment would easily break down – be it springs breaking, a rear axle snapping or an engine sputtering out – and snow-covered city streets didn’t get the quick attention they so desperately needed.
“In my mind, that was our biggest bonus this year,” Cinquepalmi said. “We should be in good shape. We’re solid with manpower.”
Crews work in shifts and each driver has a specific route he follows.
“Top priority, and this is standard in any city, is that we’ve got to keep the main roads open first; east, west, north, south,” Cinquepalmi said of plowing away snow. “Each truck does his main streets first then he has four-to-five developments he is responsible for. Then lastly, we put everybody into pick-up trucks and do the cul-de-sacs. In a storm like Harper though, we couldn’t wait until the main roads were done. We did everything simultaneously and we tapped into other departments.”
When the heavy rain and high temps came just days later, Cinquepalmi and his crews were ready again to tackle catch basins and monitor street flooding.
“We want the snow ideally to sit there and thaw slowly, but then you add 45 degrees and rain and all that water can’t get into the catch basins. We’ve been running 24 hours keeping catch basins open and our crews are working around the clock to fight off first that winter storm and then a summer-like storm of rain. Getting hit back-to-back like that is a bad recipe.”
But it’s a concoction that doesn’t stop the Service Department.
“We’ve all spent long weekends here,” Cinquepalmi said. “The mayor is very hands-on. He doesn’t sleep. Everyone steps up to the plate and puts in the long hours. If it weren’t for my crews… the success is really all on them.”
Contributing Writer