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With snow season near and fuel prices high, some communities give plow contractors a raise

A file photo of a winter storm hitting Pittsfield, Massachusetts.
Adam Frenier
A file photo of a winter storm hitting Pittsfield, Massachusetts.

Some public works officials in western Massachusetts say they will have enough contractors to help with snow plowing this winter, although it will cost more than in the past.

There's been some years recently where cities and towns have had trouble finding help to clear snow.

In Pittsfield, Commissioner of Public Utilities Ricardo Morales said he'll have 40 contractors ready to go when the snow flies, up by 10 from last year. Morales said a 9% hike in what the city pays has attracted more operators.

“Depending on the equipment you bring as a contractor, the plowing and sanding equipment, you're looking at somewhere between $90 an hour and $190 an hour,” Morales said.

In South Hadley, rates there increased by between 12-14% for snowplow contractors. The department of public works director, Chris Bouchard, said the town will have the same supply of contractors as last year.

"We saw that [the Massachusetts Department of Transportation] had raised their rates for the contractors, so we had raised our rates, as well," Bouchard said. "We put a fuel adjustment clause in just like everybody else, otherwise we probably wouldn't get anybody. Everybody is feeling the pinch at the pump as well."

According to its website, MassDOT is offering a 10-20% raise for plow operators.

In a statement, MassDOT said its contractor workforce is down by 9% over last year. Still, combined with the state's "in-house" equipment and employees, the agency said it is "well prepared" for this winter.

"The snow and ice fleet is deployed from strategic depot locations around the state highway system and the program is flexible enough to enable the redeployment of resources if shortages occur in a specific area," the statement said.

Adam joined NEPM as a freelance reporter and fill-in operations assistant during the summer of 2011. For more than 15 years, Adam has had a number stops throughout his broadcast career, including as a news reporter and anchor, sports host and play-by-play announcer as well as a producer and technician.

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