February 26, 2011

Waterville snow job was no accident, witness says

WATERVILLE -- A city snowplow driver deliberately piled up snow to trap a U.S. postal truck parked Friday afternoon in the Concourse behind Day's Jewelers, according to a witness working in the store.

click image to enlarge

IMMOBILIZED: Robert Gilchrist, operational manager for Waterville Public Works, stands next to a U.S. Postal Service truck in the Concourse in Waterville that, according to a witness, was intentionally blocked in by a city plow on three sides Friday. The city sent another plow to free the vehicle.

Staff photo by Michael G. Seamans

Stephanie Casella said she watched through a window while a Waterville Public Works Department snowplow "intentionally" trapped the postal truck parked in a no-parking zone during Friday's storm.

She then chased the plow down the street, yelling at the driver to come and dig out the truck, according to Casella, who is a goldsmith at the jeweler.

"I chased him halfway down the block ... the driver just smiled at me and kept driving," Casella said. "He didn't care that he just trapped the truck."

Robert Gilchrist, public works operational manager, declined to say the incident was intentional, but "it did look a bit more deliberate."

He said vehicles have been plowed in before, but never to this extent.

"If you were parked in the road today, you were plowed in to a certain extent," he said. "I certainly can't justify this."

The public works department investigates all complaints, and punishments for employees range from verbal warnings to termination, he said.

After Casella called police, the Waterville postmaster and Department of Public Works officials arrived around 3:15 p.m. to help dig out the truck.

Letter carrier Royce Rossignol said his postal truck had been parked along the curb for about 20 minutes and it was a normal stop on his route, even though parking is prohibited on the street. The mail truck was trapped just a few feet past a no-parking sign, and other vehicles were also parked along the street when officials arrived.

Rossignol resumed his deliveries in a replacement truck and mail delivery was delayed about 30 minutes, according to Gene Paradis, postmaster. It is the first time a postal truck has been trapped by snow like this, he said, looking at the snow surrounding the truck.

About 12 inches of snow had fallen in Waterville by 3 p.m., according to Tom Hawley, a meteorologist with National Weather Service in Gray. The storm was forecasted to taper off around 7 p.m., he said.

No police officers were at the scene, and Waterville police Sgt. Alan Main said this type of incident is handled by the public works department.

Mike Roy, city manager, said he did not want people to think city plows intentionally trap vehicles.

"We do not go out of our way to plow people in, and if we did we certainly will do something about it," Roy said in a phone interview.

"I think there have been occasions in the past where people have felt that we plowed them in, but it's not something we do on purpose," he said.

David Robinson -- 861-9287

drobinson@centralmaine.com

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