Snow Removal Services Must Always Be A Top Priority In Valley East

Robert Kirwan
Valley East Today


When City Councillors approved a new snow plowing policy that was designed to save taxpayers $1.8 million annually from the winter road clearing budget, it sounded on paper as if it could turn out to be a great plan. However, the problems and challenges that have arisen since January clearly indicate that this Council and future Councils, would be wise to avoid tampering with one of the main services that affect every single person in the municipality. And judging from the feedback, the new City snow plowing policy would receive a failing grade from virtually all residents.

It appears as if the biggest problem lies in the core principle of the policy to provide a multi-level standard of service. The new system provides for the less frequent plowing of some residential and rural roads, while the most heavily traveled roads in the city are to be plowed more frequently. The result is that the heavily traveled roads are being plowed almost too often while the side streets wait the better part of the day to be cleared.

Under the new policy, most residential roads - the ones found in subdivisions - are to be cleared in an eight to 24 hour time frame after an accumulation of 8 cm of snow. Since it may take a whole day or night to accumulate that much snow, and then another 8 to 24 hours to get the snow plow to the street, it is not unusual to have almost a whole day go by before a snow plow comes by to clear your street.

For example, during one major winter storm which began at around 5 p.m. on February 4, the subdivision in Val Therese where this writer lives did not get plowed until after 4 p.m. the following day. Even trucks and SUV’s were having difficulty traveling along the street as they swerved back and forth in tracks made by previous vehicles. It was virtually impossible for two oncoming vehicles to get by each other due to the high drifting along the side of the street. Anyone in a small vehicle was snow bound for the entire day since it would have been fruitless to even attempt to travel the streets.

This poor level of service would never have been allowed under the former regional government system which existed prior to amalgamation. Streets were always passable under the old system and it was not uncommon for residents to have to shovel out the end of their driveway two or three times during the day after snow plows went by. Under the new policy adopted by Council for the 2005-2006 winter season, the storm is usually over before many of the streets get plowed. In the “old days” the municipality adopted a multi-level of service as well, making sure to keep the most heavily traveled routes cleared more often. However, it appears as if the upper level of service that has been adopted by the current council is what would have been the minimal level of service for side streets under the former regional government structure.


            Valley East , Capreol and all of the outlying communities rely upon volunteer firefighters to respond to emergencies. When these volunteers are paged, they must respond immediately and travel quickly to the designated address to deal with the emergency. Fortunately, there were no fires or major accidents during the snowstorm on the first weekend of February. However, had there been a fire call, many of the volunteers would have had a great deal of difficulty responding in a timely manner because of the conditions of the side streets. Indeed, a fire on one of the side streets would have been extremely challenging. For example, if this writer would have had a fire in his home, it is hard to imagine seeing four fire vehicles as well as fifteen to twenty volunteer cars on my street.

            With an overall budget of less than $10,000,000 per year for the winter maintenance of road ways in the region, the attempt to save $1.8 million, or almost 20% of the total was now clearly a mistake in the minds of most ratepayers who feel that it is impossible to reduce the expenditure by 20% without a substantial reduction in service. Many residents feel that City staff ought to have known that they were asking for problems when the proposal was suggested.


            The tolerance level of ratepayers has been tested to the limit. It is imperative that a new snow removal policy be put in place which will see residential streets plowed once every six hours during snow storms in order to allow for safe transportation.  The major routes may be plowed more frequently, but the residents must see an improvement in the level of this very important service. The City spends over $300 million in total salaries and benefits during the course of the year. It should be easy enough to find another $2 million to improve one of the most important and observable services provided to ratepayers. Snow removal, garbage pick up, water services, fire protection, police protection and road repair are the most observable services that people receive for their taxes. It is imperative that ratepayers feel that they are getting their money's worth in these areas.


           On March 8, 2006, Councillors once again revisited the snow removal policy, and even though many of them have indicated that their constituents are not happy with the way things have been handled this year, the majority of them voted to keep the new policy in place.

           What is puzzling many observers is why Council has decided to stick with a policy that is clearly flawed. It is easy to say that the worst is over this year and simply let be until after the elections in November. However, some feel that a decision on how we will be handling the snow removal during the winter of 2006-2007 should be dealt with right now, not in the fall.

            Once again, the major problem with the new policy is that snow clearing does not begin until there is an accumulation of 8 cm on the streets. This means that by the time the plows get to some of the streets, some 8 to 24 hours later, the accumulation could be almost 20 to 30 cm, making it impossible for anyone to get around the streets. Indeed, there were reported incidents of ambulances and even snow plows getting stuck in the snow.



I agree with the comments made in this article.  It is interesting to note that the reason my husband and I ended up buying a house in the Valley has to do with snow removal.  We lived in a home we spent 10 years preparing in order to make it our retirement home.  It was located on lakeshore on Manitoulin Island, 2 kms away from a maintained municipal road.  We had to do our own snow removal all winter.  This was fine until ill health made it dangerous to stay there.  Since my husband was no longer able to do the road maintenance himself we decided it was time to sell and move to Sudbury where we had a semblance of country living but with the necessary services available. 
Boy, did we get played.  On our road we saw the plow pass 2 times in the time it took to connect 2 bad storms.  The first time the plow passed on one side of the street only and the second storm saw the plow pass once on each side.  There is such an accumulation of ice that we have to run the risk of losing a muffler every time we leave home.  It is either try to stay on the ice or slide into the frozen ruts.  Obviously common sense did not come into play when decisions on snow removal were made.
M. Wright
Thank you for your informative article. It's nice to hear some of the actual numbers. I just turned 16, so this winter  has been my first driving experience on the roads! I live at the very end of a long sideroad at the end of Capreol, at the bottom of a hill, next to a dirt road and a swamp. You can imagine the excellent snow removal servises we get there! Not only does my family shovel the driveway, we shovel our road too- the whole hill- just so we can get up it. My mother wrote to the city, so now we're lucky, and they plough the road all the way up to the top of the hill. Twice a month or so, they do plough in front of our house, too. I found it amazing how much the snowbanks obstructed my view while turning at stopsigns and such. It's true- drivers just go and hope not to get hit! I saw some big trucks actually  taking snow banks and removing them a few weeks ago. Wouldn't it be a good idea if snowbanks couldn't be above a certain hieght, and then they had to be tranported to a clear area?

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