The story of how nearly 600 people answered Waterbury Mayor Neil O’Leary’s call to shovel the Brass City out from under the Blizzard of ’13 is both heartening and instructive. It is heartening because of the response. People, especially teenagers, stepped up to the plate to help at minimum wage compensation. O’Leary did not know what to expect, when he presented the idea, but the turnout was so overwhelming the mayor ended up by telling the Republican-American newspaper, “Best day of my administration.”
Now the instructive part. The program is not being operated through the city, because of liability reasons. City lawyers told the mayor, the Police Activity League should direct the shoveling effort, so the city of Waterbury won’t be sued, should someone, let’s say, throw out a back while shoveling the snow.
The newspaper reported insurance carriers for the city get very nervous, when, in this case, a “call to shovels” is executed. Then there are the unions. Asking for help, even in an emergency, means union employees are being cost overtime. In fact, Waterbury’s next door neighbor, Naugatuck, became so paranoid about lawsuits, it abandoned a similar plan.
The lesson? Even a common sense idea, hatched while Mayor O’Leary was dining with friends on Monday night, is wrought with danger. Kudos to the mayor for not being intimated. Somehow, I don’t think the mayor of Waterbury, had to negotiate similar pitfalls, during the “Blizzard of ’88.”