Public works and public safety

  • Mike Watson Images Mike Watson Images

Published: 7/15/2019 11:00:12 AM

I am submitting this letter to the Greenfield Recorder to bring attention to a matter of public interest. I approached the appropriate personnel at the Greenfield Department of Public works, and my concerns were not addressed.

For several months, since at least early March 2019, on Franklin Street, near the rear entrance to 55 Federal St., there has been a broken metal municipal sign post. The post remnant protrudes about six inches from the ground, with jagged edges. The broken post poses at least two dangers to pedestrians who could either trip on the post or fall onto it. There is not even a traffic cone or other temporary barrier placed over or near the post, to alert pedestrians to the danger.

On June 17, in a meeting with Greenfield Director of Public Works Marlo Warner and Deputy Director Paul Raskevitz, which was originally convened for the purpose of discussing other issues, I mentioned the broken post, and Warner assured me that the DPW would promptly attend to it. As of July 8, three weeks later, nothing has been done to remedy the hazard, which has existed for at least four months.

During the June 17 meeting, I complained about another hazard in the form of metal ground marking stakes routinely used by the DPW, implemented in this case to mark locations for trees which were to have been planted in the tree belt along the west side of High Street between Church and Maple streets. The DPW abandoned those planting plans, and also abandoned nine metal stakes distributed along the length of the tree belt, which, similar to the above-described broken sign post, pose a risk to pedestrians who could trip on the virtually invisible items, or fall on one and be injured or worse as a result of being impaled.

Prior to the June 17 meeting, I mentioned the hazards presented by the steel rods to Assistant Field Superintendant Paul Newell and also to Deputy Director Paul Raskevitz. I was told by Raskevitz that I should dispose of them. I was also told by Raskevitz and Warner that the stakes are an “industry standard” for such purposes and that the DPW will continue to use them. They rejected the idea of using a taller, more visible marker.

Greenfield is a municipality, not an industry, and the DPW’s rationale of “industry standard” is a flimsy excuse for resisting common sense change, and does not reflect an appropriate level of concern for public safety in this context. Furthermore, it is not appropriate or acceptable for a DPW manager to impose on an ordinary Greenfield resident the responsibility to clean up after a municipal department and dispose of its abandoned equipment.

As a lawyer, it is possible that I have a significant awareness of the above-described risks and potential liability in the event of personal injury and the lawsuit which most certainly would result, and perhaps I am motivated to a greater extent compared with others not so trained, to raise such issues. Nevertheless, DPW leadership has not taken these concerns seriously, and I am urging it to change its practices.

Jonathan Chait is a resident of Greenfield.

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