Some testy email exchanges reveal that residents had the director back on her heels, defending her crews against accusations that their actions were too little, too late.
Lance Lamberton of Austell, a member of the county’s SPLOST 2011 Oversight Committee, emailed DiMassimo Thursday morning, copying dozens of others from Commissioner Bob Ott to citizen activist Rich Pellegrino.
In his email, Lamberton told DiMassimo it appeared the county did not adequately respond with pre-treatment of south Cobb roads despite confirmation from the weather service at 3:30 a.m. Tuesday that Cobb would be facing a major weather event.
“I hope this is not a precursor to the kind of traffic issues we may face if an(d) when Boondoggle Stadium is built,” Lamberton wrote, referring to the new Braves stadium planned for a site near the Cumberland Mall at Interstates 75 and 285.
DiMassimo responded Thursday evening saying her department “initiated” the placement of salt and sand on county roadways by about 11 a.m. Tuesday. By the time the county’s crews and equipment were loaded and fully active, DiMassimo said traffic congestion made the treatment of the roads difficult and in some cases, impossible. Since then, the county treated many of the roads multiple times, putting down about 450 tons of a salt/sand mix.
“The freezing temperatures have caused the ice to refreeze very quickly after the treatment, however,” she wrote.
Yet, the county continued to work on the major thoroughfares and intersections, with the rescue of any stranded citizens being the highest priority. DiMassimo said pre-treatment of roads in Southern states is usually not done for several reasons.
“Chemical solutions used have a shelf life that often would expire due to the length of time between such events and typical advance notice of weather events does not allow for procuring it on the spot,” she said. “Brine mixtures have certain equipment and preparation requirements that also may prevent timely pre-treatment, especially for broad application.”
And if the weather event begins with precipitation such as rain or sleet, she said the solution is washed away and rendered ineffective.
“Nonetheless, as described above we did initiate road treatment in a timely manner based upon our protocols,” she told Lamberton.
Since the storm began, DiMassimo said the county answered 843 calls.
“As always, we will seek to learn from this experience and improve our future performance,” she said.
Weighing in on the email chain, Keli Gambrill of west Cobb raised questions about where the county chose to place the salt/sand mix.
Gambrill pointed to the intersection of Dallas Highway and Old Dallas Highway where she said sand was placed on the flat intersection between 11:30 a.m. and 2:30 p.m. Tuesday. But about 50 feet from there was where the problem was with drivers either sliding down the hill or unable to get up the hill past West Sandtown Road.
“So — yes, Faye is correct, however the application in my opinion, was not,” Gambrill said.
Lamberton answered DiMassimo by saying roads should have been pre-treated at 6 a.m. Tuesday, not 11 a.m.
“And what is the expiration date on rock salt and gravel?” he asked her. “The salt that has been sitting in my garage for three years worked just fine on my driveway. Instead of making excuses for your failures, we would be better served by you admitting that you messed up big time. But in my years of experience with Cobb County government, that is not ever likely to happen under its current leadership. I just hope Lee enjoyed his lunch.”
Lamberton’s lunch comment is a reference to the Georgia Trend “100 Most Influential Georgians” awards ceremony that county chairman Tim Lee was attending Tuesday at the Ritz-Carlton Buckhead when the storm hit. Lee himself was stranded in his truck on I-75 for the rest of the day as he tried to drive back to Cobb from Buckhead.
“Of all the public servants I have ever encountered in Cobb County, none is more talented in the art of obfuscation than Faye DiMassimo,” Lamberton said.