The snowflakes hardly finish falling before someone calls us or sends us a tweet asking when their neighbourhood is finally going to get plowed. We seldom remind the caller or tweeter that the Town does not employ us. We just provide them the well-memorized information that main roads, sidewalks and trails are done first, followed by arterial roads and bus routes, followed by residential streets and lanes in a rotating zone pattern. If you were done first last snowfall, you will be last this snowfall.
We have little beef with how snow removal is handled on our roads and side streets. Yes, it sucks to drive a four-cylinder vehicle along compacted ridges for several days, but we know people in Edmonton who get stuck on their street for considerably longer.
The real beef is with residents who cannot be bothered shovelling their walks. Oh, lots do. Shovels, snowblowers and quads turned to snow plows have all been seen and heard last week. We tip our toques to them all for keeping the sidewalks clear for walkers.
But do-gooders aside, one can walk almost anywhere in this community and see residential and commercial property that remains snow packed well beyond the first snowfall. Too many properties will remain covered in snow until the stuff melts in spring.
The Town is very clear on snow removal for residents.
“1.1 All persons within the Town owning, controlling, or occupying property that adjoins any sidewalks shall remove or cause to be removed and cleared away all snow, ice, dirt, debris or other materials from that part of any sidewalk adapted for the use of pedestrians. Such removal shall be completed to bare pavement standard within 24 hours of the time when the snow, ice, dirt, debris, or other material was formed or deposited thereon.
“In default of any person complying with this subsection, and in addition to any other remedy available to the Town for non-compliance with this bylaw, the Town may arrange to have the sidewalk cleared. In such cases, the cost of performing the required work and the pertinent fines outlined in this bylaw will be charged to the property owner in default. Upon demand, and failing payment, such cost shall be charged against the property as a special assessment.”
Of course, the two paragraphs above may as well have been the soliloquy from Hamlet because without enforcement they are just words – might as well be the words of Shakespeare as any other.
But we cannot be too harsh on our Peace Officers for failing to enforce the bylaw. Bylaw in Morinville is complaint driven. No complaint generally means no visit, and no visit certainly means no enforcement.
Although we understand there was some proactive work to visit homes last year to remind people to chip ice off their walks, we believe it is time Council looked at rethinking the complaint-driven system of bylaw enforcement. If RCMP see someone breaking a law they do not wait for someone to lodge a complaint before springing to action. Knee-deep snow on residential sidewalks is certainly no crime, but it is in contravention of Town bylaws.
Perhaps it is time Council and Administration gave our peace officers the direction and the teeth to get out of their trucks, wade through the snow, and hand out a ticket or two to those who refuse to buy or use a shovel.