<img height="1" width="1" style="display:none" src="https://www.facebook.com/tr?id=915327909015523&amp;ev=PageView&amp;noscript=1" target="_blank"> Skip to main content
You are the owner of this article.
You have permission to edit this article.
top story

East Side Cafe, Magic Touch Spa and a Pittsfield resident's car all take damage from plow truck drivers after a recent snowstorm

East Side Cafe with boarded window

This window at the East Side Cafe on Newell Street in Pittsfield was shattered Monday after heavy snow was flung from city plows as they passed by.

PITTSFIELD — For the last 43 years, Paul Capitanio, the owner of the East Side Cafe on Newell Street, knew the sound of snowplows passing by would likely mean he’d have to shovel his sidewalk again.

On Monday, the sound of snowplows was followed by something different: breaking glass.

Capitanio was out of town when city plows took to Pittsfield’s streets to clean up after a heavy wet snow.

broken glass and boarded up window

This window at the East Side Cafe on Newell Street in Pittsfield was shattered Monday after heavy snow was flung from city plows as they passed by.

When he made it back to the east side pizza spot, he learned that a plow driving down Newell Street had thrown snow and rock against the restaurant — breaking the blinds and the picture window that overlooks nearby Belanger Youth Athletic Facility.

The restaurant’s Facebook account wrote in a post the next day that several “irreplaceable and sentimental signs” had been broken as well. Staff at the restaurant got the broken window boarded up quickly and pasta night continued on as planned on Wednesday.

Capitanio said he’s waiting for a new window to come in and be installed, but he estimates the break may have caused $3,000 in damage. He’s thankful it wasn’t worse.

“We were closed on Monday and Tuesday — thank God — because if anybody was sitting there I think they would have gotten hurt with the blast coming through there,” Capitanio said.

Capitanio’s restaurant wasn't the only business damaged that day or on that plow route. Ricardo Morales, the city’s commissioner of public services and utilities, said the same driver also unintentionally threw snow against the Magic Touch Spa on Elm Street, breaking glass at that business as well.

Magic Touch Spa

Magic Touch Spa on Elm Street in Pittsfield reportedly sustained property damage this week after heavy snow was flung from city plows as they passed by.

A direct hit

The broken windows follow a separate and more dangerous interaction between a city plow and resident. Around 11 a.m. Jan. 14, a plow driver working on a route on Onota Street rolled through a stop sign at the Linden Street intersection.

The Pittsfield Police Department's crash report shows that the plow hit a 2007 Mazda CX-7 driving westbound on Linden Street. Video of the incident posted on Facebook, and since taken down, shows snow fly off the truck’s plow as it hits the red car. 

Driving the Mazda was 22-year-old Wesly Alameda. He said he didn't see the plow until just moments before it hit his car. 

"I literally saw it as it was about to hit me," Alameda said. "I tried to dodge, but it didn't work."

Alameda said a witness who saw the accident came over to check on him. The witness drove Alameda to the hospital where doctors told him they didn't see signs of broken bones.

More than a week later, Alameda said he's still in a lot of pain and very bruised from the accident. His Mazda is totaled and he said he's waiting on his insurance to get back to him with next steps. Alameda said no one from the city has reached out to him.

His message to plows is clear: "Be more careful on the road."

Morales said that “it’s unacceptable that something like this happened, it is something that we need to work to address to make sure that it never happens again.”

The commissioner said “proper actions have been taken with that employee,” but declined to expand further beyond saying the city had followed the discipline process laid out in the driver’s contract.

What’s going on

On Tuesday, Capitanio met with Morales to talk about what happened. Capitanio commended the commissioner and his ward councilor, Kevin Sherman, for helping move the restaurant toward a fix.

Morales said the meeting was one of two he had that day with city businesses to apologize for damage caused by plowing.

The commissioner said he also spoke with the owners of the Magic Touch Spa. Calls to the spa by The Berkshire Eagle were not returned Wednesday and Thursday.

Morales said his message to both businesses was the same.

“It is unfortunate and I’m very sorry,” Morales said. “We are taking proper action with the driver.”

Morales said data from GPS tracking on city plows has been an important part of understanding what went wrong in these situations and preventing them from happening again.

GPS data from the incidents on Monday show that a city plow truck clearing snow on a route on the city’s east side was driving about 25 mph along his midafternoon route. That speed, which Morales said would normally be fine for the typical snow seen in the Berkshires, was too fast for the kind of heavy snow on the street Monday.

“For the type of snow, it certainly was the wrong judgment call,” Morales said. If the driver had been going about 20 mph — things might have been fine, he added.

“Even though they were not speeding, they were certainly driving inadequately for the type of snow and that's on us,” Morales said.

Department leaders have sat down with this driver to discuss what happened.

broken mailbox lays in snow bank

A mailbox lies in pieces in the snow on Elm Street, presumably after being hit by a plow, near Reuter Avenue in Pittsfield.

The commissioner said the early week storm stands out in his time handling snow management for Pittsfield. Morales said normally there would be calls about knocked over mailboxes and damaged lanes from drivers being just a little too close to the margin of the edge of the road.

Those calls came in too. At Tuesday night’s City Council meeting, Ward 3 councilor Sherman and Ward 5 councilor Patrick Kavey told the commissioner during a report on the handling of a Christmas holiday storm that even in the last week, they’ve received an influx of constituent complaints about the plows.

What happens next

Morales said in the recent incidents, it’s been clear that the drivers were at fault. The commissioner said he’s been directing the residents impacted in these situations to file a claim with the city solicitor’s office so they can begin the compensation process.

The city is insured by the Massachusetts Interlocal Insurance Association. Residents seeking to make a claim against the city can fill out the claim form available on the city solicitor’s office’s page estimating the cost of repairs and describing the damage.

Once the form is complete, it’s returned to the solicitor’s office and the claim is sent off to the insurance association for the insurer to investigate.

Morales said it’s common for the city to receive claims for damaged mailboxes and lawns but he fully expects claims to be coming in soon related to these recent incidents as well.

Meg Britton-Mehlisch can be reached at mbritton@berkshireeagle.com or 413-496-6149.

Pittsfield Reporter

Meg Britton-Mehlisch is the Pittsfield reporter for The Berkshire Eagle. Born and raised in Kansas City, Missouri, she previously worked at the Prior Lake American and its sister publications under the Southwest News Media umbrella in Savage, Minnesota.

Sign-up for The Berkshire Eagle's free newsletters

Get up-to-the-minute news sent straight to your device.