Our Towns

Downtown Digs Out after a Foot of Snow Falls

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – After almost three hours of shoveling, sweeping and shoveling again, Edward Griffin Jr. was ready to make a proclamation about the sidewalk in front of Oh Wow! The Roger & Gloria Jones Children’s Center for Science and Technology.

“This will be the cleanest sidewalk in downtown Youngstown today,” he declared. “Nobody’s going to have it cleaner.”

Griffin, who got to work at 7 o’clock Tuesday morning, spent his morning shoveling the 10 inches of snow that fell overnight. While most who dug out downtown used shovels or snow blowers to clear a single-file track, Griffin used a shop broom to push the slush, clumps of snow and runoff into a the sidewalk grate.

As he got back to work, Suzanne Barbati, executive director of Oh Wow, came outside to inspect his work before heading off to a meeting. She agreed with his assessment.

“It’s clear!” she exclaimed. “This is great! The best sidewalks in Youngstown.”

Griffin had some help from Anthony Villio, a worker with the city’s building and grounds department, who spent his morning driving around on a four-wheel-drive ATV with a snowplow on the front.

“I had some help from that power shovel,” Griffin said. “He did a lot of the work with that plow on there.”

Villio got to work at 5 a.m., he said, and by 11 had driven miles on the downtown sidewalks covered with snow. Even with the four-wheeler, plowing the snow was exhausting and monotonous, he said.

Because of how heavy the snow was – overnight temperatures were just below freezing – the plowing had to be done in layers, each pass taking off an inch or two at a time.

“This sidewalk here [in front of City Hall] took six or eight passes,” he said. “That’s six or eight times just going over it and over it and over it to get part of the sidewalk clear so people can walk safely.”

Not helping matters, he added, was the four-wheel drive on the ATV. Every time he tried to turn or hit a relatively dry spot, it was a struggle to control it, Villio said.

“Hopefully it’ll just be another hour or so. It’ll be clearing up what we already did because once we put the salt down, it all turns to slush,’ he said. “Right now, we’re cleaning that up to make it nice and neat.”

Last March, the city enacted an ordinance to keep sidewalks passable and began billing property owners when city workers had to clear snow and ice from the sidewalks in front of stores. After the first major snowfall of the year, many property owners had kept their areas cleared. Those that didn’t were reminded of their obligations but no citations were issued, according to officials.

“Management did a good job of keeping the pathways clear, so I was just responsible for keeping the snow moved and throwing down some salt in front of my doorway,” said Jerome Franklin, owner of The Starting Lineup in Realty Tower.

The building, owned by NYO Property Group, had been cleared by the time Franklin arrived at his barbershop a little after 9:30 a.m. What surprised him about the conditions Tuesday, he said, was how empty downtown was.

“I went next door [to Joe Maxx] for some breakfast and they were closed. I went down to 20 Federal Place and there wasn’t anyone in there,” he said. “I’m not used to seeing empty spaces in front of Joe Maxx and my building. There was the parking ban, but there were still a lot of businesses closed, which I didn’t expect.”

A few workers called off, Franklin said, but since many of the beauticians scheduled their clients for later in the afternoon after the weather improved, he wasn’t concerned about too many missing work. The downside to the weather, he said, would be customers canceling.

“There’s nothing we can do about it. We should expect snow,” he said. “This weather will impact business, but that’s part of business. You have ups and downs.”

Just down West Federal Street at Downtown Circle, owner Al Adi had a mixed reaction to the snowfall. On one hand, he said, many workers would stay home so he had to shovel snow himself. On the other, he explained, there would still be people in and out of his store.

“People who are down here won’t want to go as far away, so they’ll come here to shop around downtown,” he said. “It works both ways.”

Even with sidewalks being cleared, people using them still found the going rough. By noon, the roads were covered in slush, melting snow fell from lampposts and those who wore only shoes undoubtedly had wet feet.

“It’s terrible. It’s hard to walk through this stuff. The roads are bad. It’s the kind of day where you just want to stay in the house all day,” said Guy Monroe, who took a bus in from the East Side.

It was understandable, he said, that places were closed. Even coming in a bus was slower than usual because the Western Reserve Transit Authority battled tough conditions.

“These places got to close up because [owners] can’t get down here,” he said. “It’s that rough out here, man. I just hope it melts. I hope it melts real soon.”

Pictured: Anthony Villio, a worker with the city’s building and grounds department, spent Tuesday morning driving around on a four-wheel-drive ATV with a snowplow on the front.

Published by The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.