If you’ve driven the roads of Norwich during the winter over
the past 35 years (who hasn’t?), you owe a debt of gratitude to Andy Hodgdon.
Hodgdon, the current director of Norwich’s public works department, spent a
career devoting his time and energy keeping town roads safe. The hazards posed
by winter weather require a crew of dedicated individuals devoted to operating
the plows and sanders on our roads. One member of that dedicated Norwich crew,
Neal Rich, has, like Hodgdon, spent over 30 years clearing Norwich roads.
According to Hodgdon, the winter road maintenance season begins in mid-November. Prior to then, his crew works on preparing the plows, and calibrating the salt and sand devices, making sure they will disperse the needed amount of material on the roads. Taking into account the local environment, “We use as little road salt as possible,” Hodgdon says. Though currently there are no state restrictions on the amount of salt used on the roads, he reminds us, “It’s coming.”
One of the dedicated crew of Norwich plow drivers, Neal Rich has helped keep Norwich roads clear for over 30 years
The department has a staff of seven for road maintenance
with most of those being long-time veterans of the crew. Despite being
director, Hodgdon still takes on his share of the plowing and sanding duties.
Having spent 35 years on the job, “The technology (of the job) has come a long
way,” he said. One big change is in the comfort of the equipment. Hodgdon
recalls an old 1964-era truck he first used on the job which would never warm
up the cab on those cold winter days.
A key in maintaining a successful road crew is making sure the drivers get proper rest during an extended storm period. Though the Norwich crew is always on standby during the winter season, they try to rotate during a storm so everyone can get home for a few hours of sleep. This changes during an ice storm, however, when everyone is on duty around the clock. Hodgdon and his crew have worked out an efficient schedule and routine; “We’ve got it down to a science,” he said.
When planning for the winter season, Hodgdon says they base their budget on dealing with 35 snow and ice events.
An appreciative traveler shows his love of the work of winter road crews.
So what causes problems, besides the weather, for the
Norwich plow operators? “People driving too fast,” Hodgdon warns. This concern
seems to be universal among snowplow operators.
When cleaning up your driveway, properly disposing of the accumulated snow is another way residents can assist the road crew in their job. “Don’t put the plowed snow in the road,” Hodgdon reminds homeowners. Overall, Hodgdon finds Norwich residents are extremely helpful in cooperating with the road workers. “The people here are great.”
Some roads and areas seem to always cause more problems during snow and ice events. In Norwich, the Beaver Meadow Road area is of particular concern, as are the roads around Willey Hill. The crew uses the philosophy of “worst is first,” meaning the more troublesome roads and areas are treated first. Keeping clear the routes the school buses travel is another priority for Hodgdon and his crew.
Not only does the Norwich roads crew have the roads to clear in the winter, they also take care of the in-town sidewalks. In recent years, they have used a newer treatment for keeping the sidewalks clear, that is salt free. This application that residents will recognize from its blue color works to temperatures down to 20 degrees below 0. Though this treatment is currently too expensive for road use, Hodgdon sees a time in the future when it will replace salt use on the roads.
So when traveling the roads of Norwich this winter, have patience – slow down, don’t follow the plow trucks too closely, and give a tip of your hat to Andy Hodgdon and his crew. They deserve it.