By Seth Daniel
The sun shone brightly and the sky was a beautiful blue on Monday down Tremont Street in Everett, but Greg Antonelli of GTA Services was pacing his equipment yard, stomach in knots, adrenaline rushing as he checked, double checked and triple checked snow plows.
While things skies were bright, though cold, on Monday, Tuesday was to bring a war – a snow war.
“It’s war; it’s a 36-hour war and there are no breaks,” said Antonelli on Monday as he surveyed his yard for loose ends. “Anyone who knows the snow plow business knows it truly is blood money.”
GTA is based in Everett, and Antonelli and his brother, Phil, are both Everett natives who have heavily invested in the City through their landscaping, snowplowing and development business. But GTA is well-known outside of Everett too, far beyond their Tremont Street yard.
“We are the largest private contractor for snow removal in the area,” said Antonelli. “I can say that comfortably. There is no larger snow contractor than GTA.”
Despite his success and reputation, though, there is no sitting down or delegating responsibility when a storm like this week’s is bearing down on the region. There are no shortage of preparations, and Antonelli said he leaves nothing to question.
On Monday, a fuel truck was filling up tanks on in the yard, one with 1,500 gallons of diesel fuel. Antonelli had made a quick call earlier to confirm that another 1,500 gallons was on its way later in the day on Monday.
“We are going to have 85 pieces out there and 95 people working through the Blizzard,” he said on Monday. “I expect we’ll use 4,000 gallons of diesel fuel. Right now, we have a tanker filling up one of our fuel tanks with 1,500 gallons. Another will come later today with 1,500 gallons.”
Those pieces of equipment include plows, sanders and large trucks.
Some 20 of his pieces of equipment had to be at Boston’s Convention Center by Monday afternoon, with others stationed at UMass-Boston.
Antonelli said from October to April, he constantly scours the weather reports.
Last Thursday, when talk of a storm first cropped up, he began the preparations.
“I watch the weather every single day because it changes so quickly, as you see here this week,” he said, noting that the weather has been rather mild until now. “We do subscribe to a weather service, but still you never really know. Last Friday night was a perfect example. We were supposed to get 1.5 inches and we got nearly three. We had to be ready for that. We had to call in guys out of bed to come plow.”
Antonelli said preparations began over the weekend when he and other GTA staffers began making calls to plow operators, seeing who could come in and who was available.
Monday included starting the day around 5 a.m. with preparations of engines, plows and securing salt deliveries and pickups.
“Snow removal equipment requires constant maintenance every day through the winter whether it snows or not,” he said. “We have so much stuff and the cold weather really breaks down this equipment, so you have to stay on top of it.”
Inside the shop, Antonelli had five mechanics working diligently to make sure all of the plows – especially the large ones – were secure and in working order. They looked at all the moving parts, seeking out potential weaknesses.
While George Taska welded some joints on a large plow, Dana Fay and Abraham Salvador oversaw the hydraulics and brainstormed about what would be needed to get the plow fixed quickly. Those three and two other mechanics were scheduled to be at the ready throughout the storm on Tuesday, having the tools and parts nearby to fix any plows or trucks that might suffer a mechanical failure at the height of the “war.”
On Tuesday, the yard was bustling by 3 a.m. with equipment moving and employees ready.
By 6 a.m on Tuesday, the yard was empty and the equipment was in position.
Antonelli said he wasn’t going to be sitting around as some owners might.
“My day is part-time dispatcher, part-time plow operator and part-time mechanic,” he said. “I do whatever it takes to keep things going and I’m going to be out there the whole time wherever I’m needed.”
And that’s where it starts, from the top down.
Antonelli said it’s all about reputation in the business. He gets business because he performs, and he can perform because he has great employees and he makes every preparation.
“It’s very simple; people go with us because we perform,” he said. “It’s about your reputation in this business. No one has the equipment we have; no one has the great staff we have. They know with us, we’re going to show up and have what it takes to get the job done. It’s not easy work, but we get it done whether it’s two inches of snow or a blizzard like what we having this week.”
As the snow fell on Tuesday, Antonelli kept tabs on his equipment, knowing all preparations had been taken, but well aware that just about anything could happen.
It is, after all, a very unpredictable war.