Plow shortage will snow in much of Wareham, Select Board says

Dec 20, 2022

“It’s going to be a hard winter,” Town Administrator Derek Sullivan said about Wareham’s extreme shortage of snow plows and people to drive them.

Speaking to the Board of Selectmen at its meeting on Tuesday, Dec. 20, Sullivan said that last winter, the town had 35 hired plows on the streets. This winter, it will only have 24.

“A lot of people are hanging up their plow, so to speak,” Sullivan said. “It’s hard work, long hours, beating up your own body. Doing an all-nighter drinking coffee at whatever convenience store is open isn’t exactly good for you.”

Sullivan warned the people of Wareham that if they do not live on the town’s main roads, the snow outside their homes will not be cleared right away.

“The expectation that the snow is going to be immediately cleaned up after the storm is not reality,” he said.

Rural back roads, he said, “will be the last on his list.”

“You’re just going to have to hold back and wait,” said Select Board Member Alan Slavin. “We only have so many plows, so many bodies.”

He said that Wareham would resemble the winters of his childhood, when the snow would not be plowed until two or three days after the storm. 

While fuel costs are showing signs of decreasing — Sullivan noted that on Tuesday, he saw gas at less than $3 a gallon for the first time in months — snow plow operators can end up buried in other expenses. 

Select Board Member Jared Chadwick found this out when he tried his own hand at plowing.

“My insurance would have been $5,000 just for the winter, just for my truck,” he said. “And that was to plow driveways. The insurance is what kills everyone, what kills all of this. It’s way too much.”

Chadwick noted that most insurance companies want the money up front.

“I can’t even imagine what the insurance is for a 10-wheeler,” he said. “Everything is astronomical right now.” 

Sullivan pleaded with people to sign up as snow plow operators for the town. Wareham plow operator wages start at $87 an hour for those driving a 4x4 with plow and go up to $174 an hour for those driving a large 10-wheeler with a sander, 11-foot plow and gross vehicle weight over 50,000 pounds.

Chadwick said that such wages are competitive with the rest of the state. 

Addressing fears of being snowed in during a storm, Sullivan assured the Select Board that Wareham’s operators would be working hard in the winter, even as the difficulty of their work threatens overexertion.

“After 24 hours, there’s a safety factor with running people into the ground,” he said.