Melting snow languishing on Boston streets is revealing a filthy mess, testing the resolve of residents and public officials weary from a historic season of storms.
As spring approaches, city officials said Monday they are shifting focus, from snow removal to clearing debris from major streets, garbage from overflowing bins, and dog waste from uncleared park pathways.
“After this unparalleled and unprecedented storm, the city is very dirty and we have to clean it up,’’ said Councilor Matt O’Malley, who called a hearing on cleanup efforts.
Historic monuments, buried under weeks of snow, lay battered. Sidewalks are cracked; street signs destroyed. Once fluffy white snow is now a dense mix of mud.
Interim Public Works Commissioner Michael Dennehy told councilors that since overnight street-sweeping crews began work last Tuesday, some 200 tons of trash have been removed. And the work is just beginning, Dennehy said.
Mayor Martin J. Walsh has called in trash reinforcements, approving 20 seasonal workers, known as hokeys, to walk behind garbage trucks and pick up falling debris. In addition, the city has extended its annual “Boston Shines” neighborhood cleanup program, from one weekend to three this spring, officials said.
“What you see on the streets today is not what the public works commissioner would like to see on the streets of his city in mid-March,’’ Dennehy told councilors.
O’Malley and Councilor Timothy McCarthy convened the hearing to address strategies for tidying up with Dennehy and other Boston officials in charge of basic city services.
Councilors said they have been inundated with phone calls from residents who have not had their trash picked up for weeks or their roadways completely cleared. They urged the city to consider hiring more cleanup crew members and more help for small businesses still reeling from plummeting sales and productivity, after patrons and workers remained marooned at home during the storms, officials said.
“This has been a really crushing year for small businesses,’’ said Rafael Carbonell, deputy director of neighborhood services.
Michael Reiskind, a member of the Jamaica Plain Historical Society, said at the hearing that business has been down 30 to 40 percent since the storms, and people who have been out of work may not have money to spend in the spring. But Reiskind said the city should not use the snowfall as an excuse for the detritus in Boston.
“While this was an unusual year, it wasn’t that unusual,’’ he said at the hearing. “Streets have looked terrible when the snow melts every year, and last year, the trash barrels in the business districts were not picked up either. I think we have to be better on trash pickup.”
Councilor Tito Jackson said his constituents in Roxbury and the South End were still being ticketed on streets caked with snow, and he asked whether the city had any intentions of clearing side streets. Dennehy responded that his crews aim to clear snow mounds at intersections and major thoroughfares but said it is too costly to get the side streets fully cleared.
So far this year, Dennehy said, Boston has spent $40 million on snow removal. Once the snow was gone, the potholes were revealed: Crews have filled 3,300 holes since the start of the year, and the city is exploring new technology to improve the job.
‘After this unpara-lleled . . . storm, the city is very dirty and we have to clean it up,’’ --Matt O’Malley Boston councilor
The dwindling snow also exposed the remains of the winter. “We are noticing a lot of household trash at our parks,’’ Christopher Cook, commissioner of parks and recreation, said. “People are dumping their household trash.”
Unable to reach snow-buried trash cans, people have simply left bags filled with dog waste close to bins, Cook said.
Crews are digging out and clearing the parks and recreation department’s 331 properties, including cemeteries, golf courses, and park lands, the commissioner said. Officials have alerted local athletic directors the city is doing everything it can to clear Boston ball fields in time for the start of the spring sports season.
But they are also warning of delays because of the volume of snow and debris still on the ground.
Daily snowfall in Boston
On March 15, this year's snowfall broke the record-setting total from 1995-1996. Data through Mar. 23, 2015 at 11 a.m.
DATA: National Weather Service, Boston; NOAA