RED BANK: ASPHALT IS ‘VICTORY’ TO PLOWMAN

rb snow 012214 3The view looking south on Leighton Avenue through the windshield of a borough salt truck early Wednesday morning, above. Below, a plow working Monmouth Street. (Photos by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge)

By JOHN T. WARD

rb snow 012214 1The  plowman got lucky this time.

Tuesday’s fast-moving snowstorm may have caught motorists and school administrators off guard with its blinding swiftness. But it dropped a powdery load, and ended late at night, giving those responsible for clearing it from roadways a leg up.

In Red Bank, it also helped that more residents than usual moved their cars off the streets, said Gary Watson, director of the borough public utilities department.

“That made a huge difference,” he told redbankgreen as he drove a road-salting truck early Wednesday morning.

rb snow 012214 2Public utilities director Gary Watson at the wheel of a salting truck. (Photos by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge)

By 4 a.m., Watson said, all borough streets had been plowed once, many curb-to-curb.

“Now they’re pushing back at the corner piles and salting,” he said of his crew, as he steered a dump truck that had just been relieved of its plow and was itself spreading calcium-treated salt behind it.

The final step in the process, which began with the application of salt brine before the first snowflake had fallen, would be the action of car and truck wheels on the salted snow, which would churn it up and clear it from the travel lanes.

“We’re already starting to see asphalt on the [Monmouth] county roads,” which typically get more traffic than local streets, Watson said.

Indeed, a stretch of Broad Street south of Reckless Place and Harding Road was glistening black, while north of the intersection, which is under the borough’s jurisdiction, the street was covered in hard-packed whiteness too slippery to walk on in places.

Watson has been in the public works department for a decade, following a career as a borough cop – he left the department as deputy chief in 1998 after 27 years to join the Monmouth County Prosecutor’s office, where he spent another five. But he’s only been allowed to drive rigs this big for two months.

“I just couldn’t sit in the office during something like this,” he said. So at age 64, setting aside the consternation of his wife, Watson earned his commercial driver’s license. The January 3 storm was his first driving a big plow. Wednesday’s was his second.

Through it all, he attracts barbs as well as plaudits.

As a police officer and now the guy in charge of garbage pickups, water quality and snowplowing, “I’ve been a public enemy for a long time,” said the affable Watson. “But we’re not here to serve the interests of one or two people. We’re here to serve the town.”

Shortly before 5 a.m., after salting the main streets on the West Side, and making two passes around the loop at the Primary School, Watson got on the two-way radio in his cab to ask that some streets get a second going-over with the plow. He also congratulated the supervisor on the other end of the exchange for a “great job” by the DPW crews overnight.

“In a couple of hours, we’ll see asphalt,” Watson told redbankgreen. “That’s victory.”

 

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