February 10, 2010

Analysis: Snow job: Complaints mount as drifts pile up

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Gov. Martin O’Malley on Tuesday was collecting thank-you notes to “winter heroes” – more than 2,700 state workers helping to keep the roads open.

But other state officials were tossing snowballs at municipal leaders, the State Highway Administration and the Pepco electric company.

Senate President Mike Miller got the snowball rolling Tuesday morning, calling the plowing job in Annapolis “disgraceful,” saying the citizens of the capital city “deserved better treatment.” (Annie Linskey has a full report in The Baltimore Sun.)

The lawmakers representing Bethesda – Sen. Brian Frosh, Dels. Bill Bronrott, Bill Frick and Susan Lee — used similar strong language in a letter to Neil Pedersen, head of state highways:

“On behalf of our beleaguered constituents, we are writing to express their frustration and disappointment with the current status of snow removal operations in our district. Four days after this storm the conditions of major arteries such as Wisconsin Avenue, Bradley Boulevard and River Road are dangerous and in some cases, nearly impassable. We understand that this was a storm of epic proportions, however, our constituents deserved better conditions on state-owned roads.”

How bad were things in the wealthy suburb that hugs the District of Columbia line? Bad enough that state treasurer Nancy Kopp, who represented the same district for 27 years, couldn’t make it to Annapolis for an important hearing about public debt “due to the snow storm.” And Kopp has a state police driver.

The legislators also wrote to the CEO of Pepco about its “inadequate response” to the storm, saying thousands of their constituents were still without power.

More than half the Maryland households that lost power over the weekend were in Montgomery County.

Streets were difficult to cross when pedestrians got beyond the State House complex on Tuesday, as some businesses did a good job of shoveling, while some crosswalks were impassable. There was at least one no-man’s-land on the sidewalk where the U.S. Post Office on Church Circle abuts the James Senate Office Building. The sidewalks was cleared in front of both buildings, but at the property line there was a three-foot-wide pile of snow crossed by an icy footpath – clearly a jurisdictional dispute between state and federal snowblowers.

–Len Lazarick