The quote “When you’re up to your … neck … in alligators, it’s hard to remember that the original objective was to drain the swamp” came to mind as I was reading the article concerning Rep. Mary Mushinsky’s request that the Town of Wallingford dump snow somewhere other than Garden Road. The Wallingford Public Works Department needed someplace to dump the record-breaking deluge of snow from last February’s blizzard, but apparently neighbors complained afterwards about the resulting truck traffic, and Mary is concerned about materials used to treat the roads that are mixed in with the snow getting into the Quinnipiac River.
The letter that Mary sent was very respectful of the town’s predicament, and the DEEP “best practices” appear to be recommendations rather than edicts, but the controversy raised three issues that are worthy of comment: truck traffic, the stuff getting into the river and community needs.
Truck traffic: when contemplating their condominium purchase, did the complaining neighbor not take note that their residence would be directly across the street from an industrial park? Yes, an industrial park. With a moving company and a pallet manufacturer as two of the many tenants. Heavy truck traffic has been part of the Quinnipiac Street landscape for a hundred years. So the comment that this “is a disturbance to an otherwise peaceful neighborhood” just doesn’t reflect reality.
Contaminants reaching the river: we can all see the point that it is best to try to keep road chemicals out of the river. Perhaps I am mistaken, but when the snow melts on the roads, don’t those same chemicals that get washed into the storm drains wind up in the river anyway?
So the only difference is that Public Works transports the snow to the river instead of the snow turning to water that gets washed into the river, chemicals included. Either way, unfortunate though it is, the chemical compounds used to keep the roads safe will inevitably and unavoidably find their way to the river.
Community needs: sometimes there are some events that arise where we all just have to suck it up and realize that “it’s not all about me” and work together.
That February blizzard was just such an occurrence. Wallingford got carpet-bombed with thirty-three inches of snow in one day, and Public Works had to find someplace to put some of it or certain areas of town would be paralyzed for weeks. So a few people were inconvenienced with extra traffic so that the entire downtown area of Wallingford could function. In certain situations, we all have to just make do. This was one of them.
Remember the winter of 2010-2011? It seemed like we got a foot of snow every week until many streets in town were down to virtually one lane. I haven’t seen drivers more cooperative, more understanding of one another or more courteous since I lived in the snow belt of upstate New York. I was very proud of how everyone understood what we all were dealing with.
We all drove slowly and cautiously. Drivers communicated wordlessly with each other so they could figure out how to negotiate passing each other on these streets with six-foot wide snow banks. In short, we exhibited a wonderful spirit of community in the way we dealt with this extraordinary circumstance.
Unusual weather conditions seem to be coming at us more often. To be sure, they will test the ingenuity of those tasked with dealing with them. But in a larger sense, they will test all of us and challenge us to come together, understanding that, while we all have our narrow personal interests, priorities and perspective, we will be asked to put them aside for the good of the entire town. That is the definition of a true community. Is that us? I am confident that the answer is yes.
Stephen Knight is a former Wallingford Town Councilor.