JACKSON-Days after Jackson Township was hit with over two feet of snow from “Winter Storm Jonas”, Jackson Township officials are looking into the reasons why some township roads remained unplowed almost four days after the last snowflake fell. Mayor Michael Reina said snow removal preparations and operations were running smoothly through Saturday night, but the township had to hire additional outside contractors to complete the job due to the large amount of heavy, wet snow that remained on the town’s 1,800 roads.
Reina confirmed that an emergency meeting was held on Monday afternoon by township officials to devise a plan to handle the large amounts of calls by residents who called the township to inquire about snow removal.
The township entered into new contracts with Bil-Jim Construction of Jackson and Russo Construction of Freehold to supplement the beleaguered crews of A&M Harrison of Jackson and Galloway Enterprises of New Egypt who had been working 24 hour shifts since Saturday night.
“I want to personally thank those township workers who did come out to plow after the storm and the contractors who worked together and got the job done,” he said.
Rumors circulated on social media about many DPW workers not showing for work after Saturday’s initial dig.
Reina said he could not confirm the rumor, but has ordered an audit of records from public works director Fred Rasciewicz.
Delays in the snow removal process prompted the Jackson Township School District to cancel school on Tuesday and remove the in-service day scheduled for Friday although all school grounds were cleared.
On Monday night the township’s new fleet of snow removal equipment sat dormant in the township’s new Burke garage as independent contractors continued digging the town out. Many in town were still snowed in, many roads remained uncleared.
Chet Smilek, shop steward for Transportation Workers Union Local Branch 225 who represents the snow plow drivers employed by the township issued a statement denying that the call-out was organized by his union.
“I would like to put an end to the allegations of an ‘organized union/labor work stoppage'”, he wrote. “At no time was the union contacted for verification or information before these fabricated allegations were made.”
Smilek did not explain why the equipment was idle and township officials were forced to hire expensive private contractors to complete the clean up in the town when it is in possession of one of the newest snow removal fleets in Ocean County.
Over the past several years, Jackson township has invested hundreds of thousands of dollars to replace its once aging fleet of snow removal equipment.
Township Business Administrator Helene Schlegel confirmed the township is reviewing the staffing numbers.
“That information is not yet available and I will not provide any inaccurate numbers,” she said. “I can tell you that we have 25 employees (not counting mechanics) that hold CDL licenses and can operate equipment.”
“Not only is it unconscionable to think that public employees would take any organized action that would jeopardize the safety and welfare of the residents, in most cases, any organized work related action by public employees is illegal and subject to sanctions, both to the individual and the organization that would encourage such activity,” she added. “But again, I have no specific information regarding any organized action.”
Reina said despite the declared state of emergency in Jackson, workers from the union were under no legal obligation to work overtime this past weekend, but thanked those who did. He also thanked the township’s police department and volunteers of the Jackson First Aid and volunteer fire companies for their dedication to the community during yet another natural emergency.
Reina said once the forensic audit is done, he will release the facts and only the facts of what transpired this weekend in the township.