Valentine’s Day At Public Works: Hold The Snow… Take The Chocolates

By Joe Scavuzzo, Director, Department of Public Works

We’ve seen a lot of weather changes in the past two months: 70 degrees on Christmas to frigid days the third week of January. With the looming winter weather bringing us painfully cold wind, we can only dream of the springtime.

Public Works has ended its street sweeper operations for the winter. Our street sweeper vehicles use water during operation. Water, with its ability to freeze this time of year, can cause costly repairs for our fleet – in addition to leaving a slick trail along your curb as the machine makes its way down your street! This is where we trade in the motorized equipment for the manual labor. There are numerous water retention basins scattered around town that prevent our various neighborhoods from flooding during heavy precipitation. These are often hard to get to with equipment, so you may see a crew of Public Works personnel entering the basins and clearing debris out by hand. Our guys are easy to identify, typically wearing a bright yellow or orange sweatshirt, and driving our bright yellow trucks.

You know when you make that quick dash from the house to the car in the morning to warm it up? That’s about the extent of my New Year’s resolution to exercise more often! Our guys are out there in that harsh cold, shortly after 7:00 a.m., performing these critical, behind-the-scenes tasks that keep our storm sewers free from getting clogged.

I recall a few instances last year in the Collins Tract section, where snow and ice would melt and “pool” by the storm inlets. These pools would freeze overnight, causing issues for residents. Our Department of Public Works has a vacuum truck specifically used for clearing clogged inlets. Unfortunately, much like the street sweepers, this truck operates with water, which leads to a manual inspection and clearing. Sometimes this has to wait, as larger amounts of water prevent our Public Works personnel from safely correcting the issue.

This is the time of year when basement sump-pumps that are ran to the curb start to freeze. This could be the cause of random “icy roads” around town – even when there has been no snow or rainfall. A call to Public Works at (856) 663-0178 can dispatch a truck to address unsafe street conditions.

Speaking of street conditions, we are entering the magical time of year where “potholes” pop up. These, in addition to the roads occupied by the extensive PSE&G electrical upgrade project, will surely add to this yearly ritual. Another side-effect of the PSE&G project is the smaller side streets are experiencing more traffic than ever, enduring unexpected extra wear and tear. While it’s difficult to place and prove the repair burden is on PSE&G as some of our roads are older, they need to be safe nonetheless.

One thing I tell each resident or friend that approaches me regarding issues around town is that your Public Works Department cannot monitor the entire town every week. Pennsauken is 12-square miles and the Department of Public Works has 22 field employees; there’s just too much area to cover. We rely heavily on the residents and general public for information on pothole locations, excessive litter in our parks, or tires dumped on out-of-the-way streets. We welcome a phone call or e-mail to our office, and will respond after prioritizing safety issues first. Remember, potholes found on county roads or state highways can be reported online to Camden County or NJ State DOT.

As always, if you have any questions or concerns, please call us at (856) 663-0178 or e-mail

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