OTIS -- As the snow continues to pile up on Berkshire communities, officials in Otis are urging residents to have patience with the condition of their unpaved roads.
Early last year, longtime Highway Superintendent Christopher Bouchard assumed the highway superintendent role in Becket. He was replaced by Bill Rowley, a private contractor, who has come under a growing chorus of criticism.
Selectmen defended Rowley this week, saying his performance has improved, especially during last week's snowstorm.
"There were noticeably fewer complaints and actually some good remarks about these last two storms," Town Administrator Christopher Morris said during a meeting earlier this week. "Prior to that, there were two or three complaints every storm."
Many of the complaints have centered around Lee Westfield and West Center roads, Morris said. On Tuesday, concerns also were raised about the East Otis area.
Morris, along with Selectmen, noted this is Rowley's first winter overseeing the Otis roads. In addition, there is another new employee at the Otis Highway Department. Additional people from the maintenance department can also be called on when necessary.
Residents, including Fire Chief Sandy Pinkham, said despite a recent improvement, the roads need to be better maintained.
"On my road, I used to be able to just about set my watch to what time the town truck could go up the road and that would be 5:30 a.m. or 6 a.m. and that was regardless of the storm, whether it was an inch or foot of snow," said Pinkham.
Bouchard, the previous highway superintendent, worked in Otis for about seven years. There's been fiery feedback on Facebook pages in Otis, Selectwoman Roberta Sarnacki said, and she urged calm. Rather than rush to complain, she urged people to call the Highway Department.
Resident John Harwood echoed others saying the department performed well during last week's storm, but he added East Otis residents in particular weren't happy.
"I felt they did a good job too [on the last storm], but leading up to the storm I have never seen Lee Westfield Road have such hard packed snow on it, especially with the tractor-trailer traffic that we got. That used to be black [pavement] every storm," Harwood said.
Morris said the town has heard residents' complaints, and officials are working to ensure better oversight.
"We are optimistic we are going in the right direction," Morris said. "Understandably there is some frustration because the previous crew had been together a long time. Realistically, there is a new chief and one new crew members, it's going to take a little time to get to the same level of service."
Rowley did not respond to multiple calls for comment.
To reach John Sakata:
or (413) 496-6240.
On Twitter: @jsakata