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Highway Department Goes High Tech with GPS

Highway Surveyor Scott Crisafulli shows the path of one hired snow plow during the early January snowstorm.

The winter's first severe snowstorm dropped nine inches of snow over a 36-hour period at the start of 2014 – meaning the town Highway Department's fleet of sanders and plows plus its 56 contracted plows were constantly busy. Thanks to the installation of global positioning system (GPS) equipment, Highway Surveyor Scott Crisafulli could pinpoint where each hired truck was at each point in time throughout that storm.

Briefing the Board of Selectmen about the technology on December 16 – well before the storm – Crisafulli said the GPS installation on contracted equipment has a variety of benefits, including safety, efficiency, timekeeping, and keeping track of someone who breaks down and is a cellular "dead spot." "Now, we can simply go on a map and find them," he said. In addition, if someone's property is damaged, the GPS system allows the Highway Department to find out which vehicle, if any, was responsible – for up to 30 days after a storm, Crisafulli explained.

He told the Town Crier that the GPS system also can save up to an hour per truck in terms of electronically punching in for work and punching out when finished – as opposed to the former way of driving to the Highway Department to manually check in and then driving to a designated plowing route, he said. And, because the GPS system lets the Highway Department know where all drivers are, it reduced the number of "checkers" his department uses to make sure the work is getting done from three to two, Crisafulli added. These changes savings can amount to a savings of up to $4,000 per snowstorm, he calculated.

"A lot of plow drivers accepted this as a good thing," he said. Crisafulli bought the cellular hardware and software service from his regular snow removal budget at a cost of $7,000 this year, but that expense will be much less in future years since the hardware already has been purchased. Crisafulli expects this GPS to pay for itself within two storms this year.

When displayed on computer screens or a large television monitor in his offices, the GPS system can show all plowing routes within the town, where each hired plow is within that route, and alerts the Highway Department if a plow leaves its designated route. A "breadcrumb" feature lets Crisafulli track the progress of a plow on its route over time.

Crisafulli told selectmen the GPS system was first used during a minor snowstorm on December 14.

He explained to the Town Crier that 26.8 inches of snow already has fallen on Milford's roads this winter season, compared to only 21.2 inches in the same November through mid-January time period last winter. Crisafulli said he has spent $350,000 of his snow and ice removal budget as of mid-January.

At the board's meeting in December, Selectman Dino DeBartolomeis complimented the Highway Department and asked Crisafulli for a list of roadways resurfaced with the extra $500,000 placed in the department's budget for that purpose. "We got quite a bit done," Crisafulli said. He later provided the board with a list of the roads resurfaced and the costs involved. [Editor's Note: See chart accompanying this story.]

Selectman Brian Murray also commended the Highway Department for helping to save the town about $50,000 in contracted costs by working with the Milford Water Company and the Sewer Department to extend utility lines to where a new bathroom building will be installed at the Milford High School fields complex. In terms of helping other departments, "If we can do it, we want to do it," Crisafulli said.


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