The Town of Strathmore's snow removal plan is underway, but that doesn't mean all the concerns regarding our roads and snow clearing have also been removed. Whether it's some people feeling their roads aren't cleared enough or concerns over snow pileup, snow plows have been a hot conversation topic this winter.

Financially feasible?

Town of Strathmore's Operations Manager Donna McCallum understands the frustration, but explains it isn't financially responsible to have the amount of snow clearing some people expect.

"We're approximately $30 000 for today (Monday), and that's just for one day of removal. Today is Hillview, Wild Flower, I think a little bit of Westmount, so not a lot of huge areas, so that's an approximate cost. There's so many factors that come into it, could be the duration, the temperature, the type of snow and how many contractors are on site," McCallum said.

This means a week of snow removal costs around $150 000, which is why the Town tries to only do one a year to manage the budget. However, McCallum said they would do another one if we were faced with an unprecedented amount of snow. As for snow plowing, McCallum said plowing a street can be anywhere from $100-500, and this is done on a daily basis as a part of their daily maintenance. 

On top of the costs, it's no secret that Canadian winters can be extremely long, so the Town also needs to budget for that as well. Sometimes they have to consider saving their budget for an emergency snowfall in the future, which could mean some smaller issues don't get taken care of right away.

Snow in the parking lanes

An unavoidable consequence of plowing snow is the snow getting pushed to the side, which could block driveways. For many, this means  having to shovel the front of your driveway and put the snow in the parking lane or on your lawn so you can drive out. But what if you're unable to do this?

Joanne Skibsted is one of many on her street that faced this issue. She explained she has lower back problems that prevent her from shoveling, meaning the snow pileup just becomes a bigger concern for her as more piles up. This led to having snow around 18 inches high, which prevented her from being able to drive her car out of the driveway.

This had her wondering what would happen if an emergency were to occur. How would an ambulance get in? Ultimately, Skibsted turned to Rose Enterprises to clear her snow build up. While the problem was resolved, Skibsted hoped the Town would've addressed the issue.

This is a problem the Town is aware of, but they said there's no way to avoid the snow buildup on the side of the road. They've considered some solutions to deal with the snow pushed off by snow plows and graders, but these potential solutions would come with problems even worse than if they just left it as is.

"There are these gates that you can get for the graders. But the problem is whenever you go and close the gate at the driveway, when you open it, it leaves big massive balls of snow. So then we run into a different problem of now you've got big piles of snowballs that could potentially damage somebody's car if you left them there, right? So there isn't much we can do to mitigate the driveway issue. It is the responsibility of the the owner or the resident, or whoever wishes to open up that entrance into the driveway," McCallum said.

As for what would trigger a removal of snow in a parking lane, McCallum said the bylaw states snow needs to built up 100 cm, which is around 3 feet. However, she said the Town hopes to avoid getting it this high in the first place, and typically looks to clear parking lanes when they have buildup of around 50 cm, or 1.5 feet. However, since the snow has to go somewhere and can't be constantly removed due to the costs, the parking lanes will continue to be where the cleared snow goes, and it will be the citizens' responsibility to clear the front of their driveway. As for if you are unable to clear your own driveway, the Town's Communication Analyst Danielle Jensen said you can contact other people for help.

“Those that require assistance with Snow Removal can contact the FCSS and pick up a free Snow Angels sign for their yard. The Snow Angels program is very successful in helping those that need assistance find a volunteer," Jensen said.

Ice build up and slush removal

Many people wonder why the Town doesn't clear the slush when it's warm to prevent that from freezing into ice, which is much harder to deal with. McCallum said this is actually exactly what the Town does, but the slush gets pushed to the parking lane the same as snow. For this issue, the response is nearly identical to the one above.

Ice build up became a concern in a different way at some schools like Trinity Christian Academy though. Kyle Moore is a parent of kids who go there, and he said there's mountains of ice around 3 feet high, which is a safety concern he's worried about.

"I had to lift my kids out on top over the piles. If a kid was trying to go up those piles and they fell backwards, they're now falling into the road," Moore said.

snow pileThe pile at Trinity Christian Academy
snow pileThe same ice pile, from a different angle

Moore understands that snow needs to be plowed and roads need to be cleared, but believes there could be a better way of handling the situation.

"Increased snow plowing is good, but if we're going to plow the ice up and then make a bigger problem, that doesn't make any sense. In fact, at this point it would have been safer if they just left the ice," he added.

In addition to residential concerns the Town noted that they have received information regarding the snow buildup in front of Trinity Christian Academy and that operations has been advised that this is a safety concern.

How do you get your situation resolved?

McCallum stressed the importance of communicating with the Town, as she said they work hard to try and make sure everyone has their situation resolved. The best way by far to do this is the Citizen Communication Form, which typically has a response time of 1 or 2 days. You could also try calling, but McCallum and the Town highly recommend that form unless it's an emergency.

"If there's an emergency after hours, call the emergency after hours number, especially if it's something that needs to be mitigated quickly, then we always have people on call that can go out and investigate and potentially take care of whatever the issue is," McCallum said.

Skibsted said she wasn't able to get a response right away as her issue happened while the Town office was closed during the holiday break, but she did say the Town did call her back on January 3 when they returned. However, Skibsted added the emergency after hours number also didn't work, which the Town said was due to technical issues with the line being down.

Miscellaneous details

Some other quick details that don't warrant their own section:

  • The bylaws say you can't shovel your snow onto the road, and have to stick to the parking lane or your lawn. This is because putting your snow on the road only creates a bigger problem for someone else, as the snow plow will take all of your snow and leave it in front of another person's residence.
    • The Town added they rarely ticket people though, and look to educate instead. The last ticket given for putting snow on the road was 12 years ago.
  • The Town has access to their own equipment, but also hires contractors out  to remove the snow for their snow removal, which is a big factor into the costs.
  • Some people noticed there wasn't a snow blower on Friday. The Town said this is because the machine broke down, but is once again up and running.

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