Few tractors mean clogged sidewalks in city

Once again, winter is taking its toll on the small tractors the city uses to clear snow from sidewalks. Last year, a car smashed into one of the city’s four sidewalk tractors. City crews salvaged the Trackless MT series vehicle, only to have it break down repeatedly this winter.

In fact, two of the city’s four vehicles have been constantly in the shop for repairs, often at a rate of twice per 8-hour shift, said Scott Pollock, the city’s highway department supervisor.

The city has had to borrow the Nashua School District’s one sidewalk tractor for work in clearing city sidewalks.

All told, there are 212 miles of sidewalks in Nashua. Mercifully, the city doesn’t have to clear snow from all of them.

Difficulty with the sidewalk tractors came up at the board of aldermen’s meeting this week.

With so many children in the inner city having to walk to school, it’s imperative that all the sidewalks are clear “before something really bad happens,” Alderman-at-Large David Deane said.

“We’re in desperate need of one if not two more sidewalk plows,” Deane said. “As they went through the frozen tundra on Manchester Street this afternoon, there’s just no need for it – the fellow had to keep backing up and going forward, backing up and going forward. It was like trying to snow-blow boulders.”

Deane said he would put in a request for Community Development Block Grant money to purchase a new sidewalk plow.

The machines cost about $110,000 a piece, Pollock said Thursday. He plans to request funding for one in the budget for next fiscal year.

Also, about $90,000 has been aside in a savings fund to replace the two oldest tractors, which date to 1995 and 1996.

There are a couple of reasons why the tractors break down so often, Pollock said.

One is because of the ice that accumulates under the snow, and the ice storms this winter have been particularly hard on the vehicles, Pollock said.

The other reason, Pollock said, is, “they have a lot of moving parts. They just break down.”

Only two companies make sidewalk tractors, Pollock said. However, a new company is coming on the market with a tractor that has fewer moving parts, and Pollock is itching to give it a test drive.

Another difficulty is that the city can’t turn to subcontractors, as it does for help in plowing streets, Pollock said.

Lots of people attach snowplows to pick-up trucks so they make extra money during the winter months, Pollock said.

However, not many people are willing to invest $110,000 into a machine to plow sidewalks, he said.