Balto. Co. suspends snowplow driver Man allegedly failed to clear 12-mile route

February 07, 1996|By Larry Carson | Larry Carson,SUN STAFF

Responding to scores of complaints, Baltimore County officials have suspended a snowplow driver, charging that he failed to clear streets along his 12-mile route after last month's blizzard.

Snow remained on northeast county streets along the route for days after the storm. And as residents' complaints piled up, the county's highways chief said, he went to find the driver and his truck -- five days after the blizzard hit the area.

The Sun has learned that Harrison B. Johnson was suspended without pay for a 40-hour period from yesterday through Friday, covering four 10-hour work shifts. His supervisor -- whose name was not released -- also was suspended, but retired before the punishment took effect, officials said.

Workers who don't do their jobs must be held accountable, County Executive C. A. Dutch Ruppersberger III said yesterday. "One or two people can affect morale," he said.

Mr. Johnson, who was responsible for covering the area between the city line and the Beltway, as well as Harford Road and Perring Parkway, could not be reached for comment.

County Councilman Joseph Bartenfelder, who represents the area, said he received scores of complaints from residents after the Jan. 7 storm.

"The streets were covered," he said.

But he was repeatedly assured by county highway officials that the roads had been plowed.

Highways chief C. Richard Moore said that by Jan. 12, so many complaints had come in that he went looking for Mr. Johnson, who didn't respond to radio calls.

Mr. Moore's deputy found the truck along the route and, with Mr. Johnson, rode back over the route's snow-covered streets.

"We couldn't find one that he did," county Public Works Director Charles R. Olsen said. The county, he added, has contacted everyone who complained to make sure the work was later done and to find ways to improve the reporting system.

County truck drivers are responsible for reporting what roads have been plowed; they turn over the information when they return for fuel, salt or rest.

Mr. Olsen and Mr. Moore said they did not know what the driver was doing instead of plowing. But Mr. Moore said he saw the truck briefly once Jan. 11 with its plow too high to push much snow.

Some residents were forgiving, though. "Most of us didn't go anywhere until Wednesday anyway. It was an exceptional amount of snow," said Marie McDonnell, of the 2700 block of Maple Ave.

Mary Harrison, of the 2800 block of Onyx Road, added that a neighbor with a truck plowed part of the street and people eventually shoveled themselves out.

And Mr. Olsen noted that Mr. Johnson did a good job plowing after last weekend's storm, and that complimentary calls came in Monday.

Mr. Olsen said, "I think he got the message."

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