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REPORTING · 24th February 2011
Walter McFarlane
With the recent weekend snowfalls in Kitimat, Kitimat City Council has had several discussions on snow clearing at their meetings. At the Committee of the Whole meeting on Monday, January 24th, Council discussed snow clearing for over an hour.

Councillor Corinne Scott brought several ideas forth after Council members received multiple calls on snow removal policy. She said she received calls about snow clearing on parking lots, snow being left at the end of the block and Arterial Roads. In addition, she received calls from seniors who were no longer allowed to leave snow from their driveways along the curb. The seniors were no longer able to lift the snow into their yard and they wanted Council to allow them to leave their snow for the grader.

In addition, she had an idea where the district could sell snow flags to seniors and people with disabilities for $25. When the snow clearing is done, the municipality could clean the driveways for these people with their sidewalk cleaners.

Municpal Manager Trafford Hall explained the snow event for the weekend of January 14th, 15th and 16th of January was one of the biggest snow events Kitimat has seen in years and the residential streets were clear 24 hours after the snow stopped falling. Hall explained their observations were arterials were always clear, collectors were clear and those were along the bus routes. These streets allow people to get to work. He explained they were staffed for average and can call people in when they are needed.

“We get lots of complaints on the big ones. We get people who can’t get out of their driveways, we get high centered on Windrows, we get high centered on people pushing their snow into the roads. On the one hand you get people complaining that the graders and plows are not getting there soon enough. On the other hand, you get people complaining that we should push more snow from their driveways on to the roads,” said Hall.

He explained people were getting high centred and stuck on the piles pushed out into the road and the grader can not get past them. In the mean time, people are complaining because the grader cannot get close.

It was pointed out: putting snow in the travel portion of the road was against the bylaw. People were sent letters but were not charged. Councillor Feldhoff inquired about how the boulevard could be used for depositing snow, which was a part of the bylaw. He was told the boulevard is between the curb and the property line. No snow on the streets. Scott pointed out: if the boulevard was full of snow from the clearing, people can’t put snow in it.

Gleig stated the handout told people not to put snow on the road and if they must do something with it, put it in the boulevard. He also said they discussed issuing warning tickets to people who leave their snow in the road. There are also people who move their snow into the clean road thinking the District will be back again not realizing they are done; the snow freezes in the street and creates driving hazards.

He also expressed during the cleaning, having the extra snow in the streets creates more snow for the blowers to move, some times too much. He explained there were times the blowers could not fully take out the windrows because there was too much snow. In addition, the blowers and graders cannot remove snow while there are cars stuck in the streets.

He expressed the calls they usually receive come from poor visibility in blowing snow. These are blowing more snow on one side of the street than the other and blowing snow too far into yards. Gleig explained some times, the snow can blow over and through the piles and hit property and the operator might not even notice. He suggested Council might go on a ride along to see what they see.

He added the change in snow clearing policy did not take effect during the snow storm in early January. 56 different people worked that weekend and they worked round the clock. They had a transmission problem in one of the blowers.

Monaghan wished to interject. “I heard the Mayor of Edmonton last night on the television and people were complaining about the snow clearing in Edmonton because they had such a huge snowfall and he said: ‘The main arterials are all open.’ He said: ‘those of you who are on other streets, we’ll get to you in two weeks.’ I think we’re doing ok,” said Monaghan.

Councillor Randy Halyk said big cities did not focus on residential spaces. He stated he enjoys having the streets maintained. He said the snow removal is excellent. Scott stated she feels Kitimat has excellent snow removal. She said the people who were complaining were a number of people, mostly in regard to seniors rather than snow blowers. She said the seniors could not get the snow up on top of the mounds of snow using shovels and they want to be warned or ticketed for moving the snow into their yard.

She also said the parking lots cause a lot of difficulty. The arterial roads are cleared quickly and the residential streets can be left longer because they do not get unreasonably deep. Scott suggested doing the arterials and the residential streets and help people who are having difficulties doing their driveways when all is said and done.

Hall said they tell people to take it easy in the storms and the district will get there when they get there. If snow is pushed into the uncleared road, cars get stuck on it and snow clearing gets slowed down.

Hall explained the snow removal regulations. They have a slower call out after hours. During the weekday, the snow removal services are unaffected. Sunday is double time and expensive. The policy made no difference during the big snow fall in January. During the first snowfall in November, the snow stopped before they hit five inches so it never came into play. As for the January snow fall, the snow was over five inches by the time the work day ended.

Council continued to ask questions on the five inches, parking lot clearing and shifts before moving on to topic of sand and Salt. Scott was under the impression the mixture had changed and the trucks had to do two passes to get a good layer.

Gleig was confused by this and had never heard such a comment. He explained they used 50% salt which is more than the highway crew uses. Scott said this was brought to her attention. Councillor Bob Corless said he gets complaints about having too much salt.

On the topic of snow flags, Hall said it is not the first time this has come before Council. He said they have a big clean up operation and when all the machines are available for this, it would be a while after the snow fall. He suggested people contact another service to clear their driveways as they do not want to be in competition with these services.

Scott suggested the Council truck snow out and remove snow from tight residential streets. Glieg pointed out they were asked to lower costs, not increase them. They remove snow from cul-de-sacs when it gets high enough to reach the wires and from parkinglots when they run out room. He also pointed out they need a place to put it. Prince George has a melting facility. Hall stated trucking snow is expensive.

Feldhoff gave a notice of motion for people to store snow at the end of driveways. On February 7th, Councillor Mario Feldhoff threw the motion on the table to modify the community bylaws to allow people to put snow along the curb as long as the snow does not impede traffic.

“Recently there has been a lot of discussion on snow clearing and we’ve received our bylaws from administration. There is reference made in our bylaw to the boulevard and I always thought the boulevard was part of the street. I was informed that this was not the case, the boulevard is the first 8’ of land in peoples’ front yards,” said Feldhoff.

He expressed concern that people were receiving letters and warnings about placing snow at the end of their driveways, but the bylaw creates challenges for the elderly and people who do not have snow blowers. He suggested changing the bylaw to allow home owners to put snow at the end of their driveway as long as home owners did not impede traffic.

Mayor Joanne Monaghan stated there was a recommendation to table this motion until after the District have had a chance to review the performance of the snow removal under the new policies.

Municipal Manager Trafford Hall pointed out there were complaints phoned into the District about people piling the snow onto the road, people who want to push snow onto the road and this leads to the complaint about not clearing the roads fast enough. He said it would impede the snow removal service and be difficult to enforce and Council is too busy with budget right now to focus on it.

Tim Gleig, District Engineer clarified for Council. While the bylaw forbids snow from being put into the traveled portion of the road, if someone had to, it had to be put beside the curb or if the road had been windrowed but not blown, it could be put in the windrow.

Glieg suggested discussing many of the issues around the snow clearing at the same time. The 3-5 inches, district owned parking lots and this new motion. He said there were a number of problems which would also need to be looked at such as how the snow affects drainage from the gutters. He added the biggest concern is how long it takes to finish their route.

“If everybody put their snow on the road, we’d have twice as much snow on the road to remove,” said Glieg.

He added the District gets blamed by people for blowing snow from a neighbour’s driveway onto their yard. Halyk threw a tabling motion onto the table.

Feldhoff said this motion was not pulled out of thin air. He said it was about having their bylaw reflect the publication on where snow should be and where it should not be. He said it was not about the three to five inches or parking lots.

Halyk spoke to his tabling motion. He said snow removal was a concern which council had to resolve without breaking it all down. He said they should be coming up with a good piece of legislation.

Councillor Corrine Scott was opposed to the tabling motion as this by law would help the people who have difficulties finding a place on their property for the snow when they are shovelling by hand.

The tabling motion was called and the motion was tabled.