By Dustin Luca
---- — A free lunch went “miles” last week to cheer town employees who themselves went miles for residents by working during February’s blizzard.
Dylan’s Bar and Grill owner Sam Petrovich and Park Street Pub owner Rick Pruneau gave a couple dozen employees of the town’s highway, water and forestry departments a meal on the house last week.
They did it because of how well the employees, which also included town engineers and mechanics who put time into the storm, did ensuring town roads were safe for travel when Gov. Deval Patrick’s ban on driving was lifted after the storm.
“We were able to open on Saturday, after the governor took out the driving ban,” Pruneau said. “People were able to come to Andover and had places to park their car. A lot of towns didn’t have that.”
The employees dined on “the kind of food they would like,” according to Pruneau. The menu included pulled-pork sandwiches, lasagna, kielbasa, fried fish and chicken tenders.
Caesar salad was also included.
The free meal “means a lot to the guys,” said Chris Cronin, Department of Public Works acting director. “They come here to work every day. They grind it out. What they want more than anything else is some sign of appreciation from the people for what they do.”
Most of the employees were putting in 16-hour shifts during the storm with only a few hours of rest between shifts. Most of them put in 40 hours of work within just a few days of responding to the storm. A few went higher, according to Cronin.
“People like to grumble. They don’t understand how hard these guys work,” Cronin said. “You’re out there 24, 36, 48 hours, grinding it out, working, working. They’re human. They get tired, and when you hear negative comments and you know you’re doing the best you can, it’s demoralizing.”
Since the storm response ended, bills for contractors who worked during the storm have also been finalized. The town spent $425,000 to recover from the storm, putting their totals to $900,000 on the season prior to this past weekend’s storm, according to Cronin.