By Kevin Werner • METROLAND WEST MEDIA GROUP
Do homeowners living on crescents, courts, and cul-de-sacs get a lower level of snow removal service from the city?
Ward 7 councillor Scott Duvall says yes.
After the Dec. 26 snowstorm that blanketed the Hamilton area, it took some snow plows up to five days to pass over some residential neighbourhood streets. But when those plows went through circles, crescents and cul-de-sacs, rather than bare pavement, they left behind packed snow, with a sprinkling of sand on top.
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“We have a problem,” said Duvall during a recent public works committee meeting discussion about the city’s poor snow clearing operation. “That is not what the public understands. People on courts are getting a lower level of service. You don’t buy a Cadillac and get Volkswagen parts.”
Darrell Smith, manager of road maintenance, acknowledged the city’s snow clearing operations has a set of protocols that it follows after a snowstorm.
“Yes, we have three different levels of priorities and three different levels of services,” he said.
Both the Lincoln Alexander Parkway and the Red Hill Parkway are priority one responses, said Smith. Then there are priority two roads, such as Upper Ottawa, and other roadways that get plowed within four hours of a storm. The third level of service is reserved for through streets, courts, crescents, and unpaved roads, he said.
Snow plows are supposed to begin clearing roads once the snow accumulation reaches 10 cm.
Duvall pointed out that after the recent snowstorm, the plows left the roads snow packed, and over the following few days vehicles created ruts in the snow, adding to homeowners’ driving difficulties. Over the years since he was elected in 2006, he has found some operators plow courts and crescents to the pavement, while others follow the city policy.
“Residents are confused (about the service),” he said. “They are getting one service level one day, and another the next.”
He said homeowners are also angry that when plow operators do travel down a street, they go around a bend and leave about 20 feet of snow on the side, blocking driveways and the sidewalk.
“You are asking homeowners to clear the sidewalk,” he said. “It’s unbelievable the amount of work residents have to do.”
He said it doesn’t cost more for the city to plow courts and crescents to the road.
Mountain councillor Terry Whitehead said that after the storm he received more than 275 complaints from residents because plows didn’t even appear in some parts of his ward, including in the Fessenden neighbourhood. After five days, he went to the nearby public works yard and urged operators to plow some streets.
“It’s not my job to drag out people from a yard to their job to plow streets that haven’t been touched,” said Whitehead.
Dundas councillor Russ Powers had one word for the city’s snow clearing service: “It was total garbage.”
Smith apologized to councillors and the public for the snow clearing operation, promising to do better next time.
“We did let the public down,” said Smith. “We have taken steps not to let that happen again.”
City staff agreed to review the city’s snow clearing policy, and its priority list.