WEST SENECA — Everyone in Western New York knew the snow was coming. Estimates of how much snow was going to fall were up to six feet in some areas, but no one would really know until it happened.
However, one thing was certain – CSEA members would be actively working to respond to the storm and get the community back to normal as quickly as possible.
On November 17, CSEA Town of West Seneca Blue Collar Unit President Brian Cummins arrived at work around 7 a.m. ready for anything Mother Nature threw at him.
That night, as the snow began to fall, Cummins and the unit’s 92 other members were all-hands-on-deck as they prepared to keep up with the storm.
However, as the snow accumulated at an accelerating pace, there was no keeping up with it.
Over the next few days, town employees worked around the clock, often getting little sleep, to clear roads and even help with emergency response.
Cummins said he didn’t go home from when he got in that Thursday until 6 p.m. on Sunday. In that time frame, more than five feet of snow fell in West Seneca.
“I’ve been here over 30 years and this is by far one of the top five worst storms I’ve ever seen,” said Cummins.
Members spent days and nights on the roads clearing as much snow as possible for residents and emergency vehicles. Cummins often found himself assisting emergency services in home rescues.
On Friday night, he was at a home in West Seneca with a front-loader helping clear out snow from the entrance of a home where an elderly man was experiencing a medical emergency. On Saturday, he was helping firefighters rescue employees from a collapsing gas station.
After the storm settled, their work persisted. For the next several days, members were still working around the clock-but moving their efforts more to snow removal.
On Tuesday, Cummins drove a front-loader down a narrow, dead-end street. The only residents on it were those living in a small apartment complex and a single-family home.
He put the front-loader in gear and accelerated full-force at the snow to push it as far back as he could before bringing what he had picked up to a nearby truck to dump.
“I never see plows come down this street,” said the single family home resident. “Usually, I’m stuck getting out myself.”
She spoke to Cummins about how infrequently her street is plowed and thanked him profusely for his work.
While the members’ efforts are key to their community’s success and safety, CSEA members in the Town of West Seneca are also fighting for fairness.
The unit has been without a contract since December 2020 and members are fighting for a fair agreement.
Unit members are still dedicated to the community that many of them call home.
— Madison Ruffo
Town workers prepare for winter
GLENVILLE — When snow and ice hit this Schenectady County town, a 24-member crew is responsible for managing 100 miles of road.
As fall turned to winter, workers here are usually still finishing leaf and brush pickups when they begin to transition to adding the plows to their fleet of trucks. The salt shed is loaded and ready for the season.
A typical workday is one 8-hour shift, but winter storms do not recognize schedules so the crew keeps going until the roads are clear.
“We might get home at four in the morning, but we still need to start work again in a few hours,” said Town of Glenville Highway Department Unit President Dan Van Heusen. “There is no second or third shift coming in; it’s just us.”
— Therese Assalian