by Colin Smith
A major snowstorm like the one that hit the Morinville last week makes a mess of the roads and streets. It also generates complaints like the one received by the Morinville News from a resident living near Notre Dame School, who noted the snow had not been removed from his street by mid-Sunday morning.
In his complaint to Morinville News, Luc Aubochon questioned the adequacy of the town’s snow removal efforts. Aubuchon said his wife was unable to take her car out on the uncleared street, and said he felt it was unsafe for Notre Dame students who use it.
“How long does it take them to start cleaning the street?” he asked. “I understand that there is a storm. We know that it will snow every year. We need a plan for it.”
A Morinville resident since 2001, Aubuchon is originally from Quebec. There municipalities are much more efficient at dealing with snowstorms, he believes.
“Anywhere east of Toronto they know how to deal with snow.”
While reluctant to address any specific complaint, Town Public Works Manager Claude Valcourt stated residents have to realize that clearing away all the white stuff can take some time. “They need to exercise patience when there is a big snowfall,” said Valcourt. “Realistically, it can take two, three or four days.”
To handle snow removal, there are seven people in the Roads Department, along with an array of equipment that includes two graders, two plough-sanders and two loader-mounted snowblowers. Parks Department employees take care of clearing the trails, and Utilities Department workers may be called in if necessary. Contractors are also on call to truck the snow away as needed.
According to Valcourt, $120,000 was made available in this year’s budget for snow removal. He pointed out that the actual costs vary from year to year depending on how much snow falls. Snow clearance operations kick into action when there has been an accumulation of five centimetres, although sanding may take place after less has fallen.
In line with Morinville’s Snow and Ice Control Policy, snow clearance follows a strict system of priorities. Main roads, such as 100 Street and 100 Avenue, are done first, along with trails and sidewalks adjacent to Town-owned properties, including Civic Hall, the Community Cultural Center and Public Works Shop, along with Fire Department bays access.
Arterial roads and the Community Cultural Center parking lot are second on the priority list and are done once the main roads are cleared. Finally, the snow is removed from residential streets and lanes. For this purpose Morinville is divided into five zones, with clearance scheduled on a rotating basis. “We respect the zones as much as possible,” Valcourt said. “Because if we don’t it gets us in trouble.”
Snow is generally pushed to both sides of the road if there are sidewalks with a boulevard between them and the curb, or to the side of the road that doesn’t have a sidewalk.
Valcourt said work continues until all of Morinville’s streets, back alleys and pathways are cleared. This ensures that contracted solid waste and recycling services are uninterrupted, and people can use the back alleys to get to their homes.
However if there is another snowfall, crews go back to clearing the main and arterial roads, before recommencing at the point where they left off.
Operations Manager Donald Fairweather said the day starts early when the snow falls. “We aim to get the graders out about 3:00 or 4:00 a.m. so the roads are graded for commuters,” he said. “We try to make sure the major routes are done by 5:00 or 6:00.” Crews don’t start working in the residential areas until 7 a.m. to keep noise disturbance to a minimum.
Signs announcing street parking restrictions for snow removal purposes are put up 24 hours in advance of work being done. Follow-up is then done with residents through telephone calls and other means. Both Valcourt and Fairweather stressed the importance of residents respecting the snow removal parking restrictions and urge residents to park elsewhere when the signs are up on their street. He added that having to deal with streets where vehicles have not been moved delays operations.
“The better people are at complying with the process, the quicker we can get it done, and the quicker we can get it done, the cheaper we can get it done,” explained Valcourt.