Let it snow!

January 13, 2016
Council Column

I like snow. It’s one of the reasons my wife and I choose to live here: we appreciate the four seasons and enjoy all the different recreational opportunities they bring.

But, I recognize snow brings its fair share of burdens to people during the winter. From shoveling driveways and sidewalks, to clearing gutters when it melts, to dealing with icy and treacherous road conditions, snow can make the winter seem awfully long for those who can’t easily manage its impacts.

Snow is an operational burden for the City too. Annually, our snow removal and handling costs averages about $900,000 per year – a significant portion of the City’s overall budget. However, I’m proud to say that our City crews do an amazing job of clearing and sanding our roads and sidewalks and of staying on top of the snowfalls when they come. I do not hesitate to make the claim that the City of Quesnel has one of the best snow removal and snow handling programs in the province.

As a City we also offer an incremental service to our residents that very few communities provide: end of driveway clearing when snowfalls exceed four inches. This program remains in place even after Council’s exercise of fiscal discipline in our 2015 and 2016 budgets.

But, despite this significant investment in snow removal, a robust and strategic approach to this operational challenge, and incremental support to homeowners with our driveway clearing, we still get complaints about the service levels the City provides.

While some of these complaints are legitimate and can be addressed by our staff and crews as part of our continuous improvement program; many of the complaints the City gets are, in my estimation, a result of unrealistic expectations and a failure to apply some common sense to those expectations.

The first priority for our crews during a snow event are the main thoroughfares and feeder roads, along with the downtown core. If we get a continuous dump of snow or back-to-back snowfalls it will take some time before our crews can get to the side roads – that’s simply common sense. So, during these times some patience needs to be exercised with respect to our neighborhood roads.

For a variety of reasons we can’t always provide driveway clearing lock step with our plows. This is a “nice to do” service provided by the City, not an essential one by any means. If we don’t get the end of your driveway cleared in a timely manner during large snow events, please give our crews some latitude, as there will be a good reason it didn’t happen. And, please consider being a good neighbor to those who may not be able to easily clear the snow from the end of their driveways.

We will continue to seek ways to improve how we handle snow removal in our City and invite your suggestions for improvements. But, hopefully, those suggestions will be measured and reasonable, not merely a result of unrealistic expectations about what’s possible with the limited resources we have and the nature of the snow event we’re experiencing at the time.

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