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Digging out in Mansfield

Week may bring break for exhausted town workers.

Two or three clear, warm days in a row, that is all Director Lee Azinheira says he needs to get ahead of the onslaught Mother Nature has dumped on Mansfield this winter. With the warm weather Sunday providing a brief respite, after tomorrow’s brief storm he may get his wish.

The National Weather Service in Taunton seven-day forecast for Mansfield predicts clear or partly cloudy skies beginning late Tuesday and continuing through the remainder of the week, though below-freezing temperatures will continue through Saturday.

We will take what we can get.

After last week’s vicious onslaught by Mother Nature with two full-days of rain and freezing rain, Mansfield’s police, fire, DPW crews, the light department and town engineers are all running on empty.

It looks worse every few days," Azinheira told selectmen Wednesday.  "We have equipment out every night," he said, referring to the ongoing snow bank and intersection work. "The guys aren't getting a lot of rest." 

Azinheira said the department has 24 town vehicles out on the roads, including three sanders, three backhoes, and a sidewalk plow all working round-the-clock, along with dozens of contractors. Still, it has been all but impossible to keep up with the relentless weather.  "Sometimes we have nobody to put out - everybody is dead basically," he said.

Azinheira commented the height of the banks at the sides of roads and the state of some of the intersections is the biggest problem the DPW work force is facing right now. "I have seen banks eight feet tall," he said. He asked residents to call (508-261-7335), or email the DPW office if they have particular concerns about a dangerous intersection.

He said snow is being trucked away to "snow farms" on both Fruit Street and Plymouth Street as it is cleared from clogged areas.

“If it is not a lot, we try and keep it there,” said Azinheira. “We are trying to minimize trucking.”

The threat of roof collapse throughout New England continues to keep Mansfield and other towns on high alert.

“It doesn’t seem like a lot,” Town Manger William Ross told selectmen concerning the roof snow removal efforts, which began last Monday at the Plymouth Street Fire Station and expanded throughout town. “When you have that much snow on a flat roof, that is a lot of weight. Some of the older buildings may not be designed to withstand it."

Ross said the onslaught of such heavy precipitation has the effect of defining what needs work, whether a structure or a system.  "A winter like this will find any weak spots and expose them," he said.

Mansfield is fortunate, losing only an unoccupied Quonset-hut structure at , grounds and continued proactive measures such as evacuating the on Friday and a weekend of non-stop roof clearing on both public and commercial buildings in town may avert any serious threats to damage and public safety, but the task remains gargantuan and spring is still weeks away.

The town is asking for both help and patience.

Azinheira said workers are using GIS systems to try and find buried street drains. After Wednesday’s full day of rain, buried storm drains in the school parking lots caused 10 inches of water to cover the area.

He appealed for help with the job from residents.

 "If you know where it is, dig it out," he said.

 Ross praised the proactive efforts of the light department throughout the winter, saying Mansfield was one of the few communities with little or no power outages during the severe weather. The light department is using its equipment to help out the DPW with snow removal.

Ross and the selectmen praised the continued efforts on the part of the DPW, fire, police and building inspectors. They asked residents for continued patience and urged safety.

Selectman Jess Aptowitz commented on seeing children sledding down the large piles of snow. “Please, don’t let the kids go down the hills into the street.”

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