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Stoney gets high marks on first on-the-job task

Jeremy Lazarus | 1/12/2017, 10:42 p.m.
Richmond Mayor Levar M. Stoney appears to have passed the first big test for his new administration — clearing away ...

Richmond Mayor Levar M. Stoney appears to have passed the first big test for his new administration — clearing away the 8 inches of snow that fell on the city by last Saturday afternoon.

During and after the snowstorm, Mayor Stoney, who will be ceremonially sworn in and deliver his inaugural address at noon Saturday, Jan. 14, at City Hall, was highly visible around the city.

He visited the city’s emergency operations center before the snow arrived, then took time to ride with snowplow crews as they began to reopen the roads. He also took a sled ride at Forest Hill Park to the delight of the adults and children who turned out to play in the snow.

Overall, there was praise for the work that city employees accomplished. Most of the city’s main streets were plowed within a day and certainly by Monday when commuters poured into the city to return to work.

That was a refreshing change for many who recall previous snows when the city had a harder time than its county neighbors in getting to bare pavement.

Some workers were astonished to find that City Hall reopened at its regular time Monday as a result of the high level of clearing that was done.

Mayor Stoney also promised that neighborhood streets would get more priority, and at least in some areas that happened.

According to John Buturla, the city’s deputy chief administrative officer for operations, “For the first time, we were working in neighborhoods within the first 24 hours.”

By Tuesday, crews had “treated or plowed 90 percent” of the city’s 1,860 lane miles, said Bobby Vincent, deputy director of operations for the city Department of Public Works, who led the effort to sand, salt and plow streets. The remaining 10 percent was done by Wednesday morning.

Despite the effort, Richmond schools stayed closed through Wednesday as officials found too many streets and sidewalks still too treacherous for buses, teachers and students to navigate. Students were expected to be back in class Thursday.

Other localities, ranging from Hopewell and Petersburg to Hanover, Henrico and Chesterfield counties, also kept their schools closed through Wednesday.

One thing that is new with Mayor Stoney is the city’s swift effort to tackle potholes resulting from the cold or the plowing. City Hall has announced it would undertake a “pothole-palooza” between Thursday and Saturday to make repairs. — JEREMY M. LAZARUS