Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

If they just had a crystal ball...

Katz defends snow-clearing effort

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Senior city officials and politicians came to the defence of the public works department's handling of the latest snow-clearing effort, which has resulted in many impassable streets and sidewalks and an unprecedented number of fender-benders.

During a news conference Wednesday, Mayor Sam Katz said people may not like the results, but city crews and private contractors did the best job they could under extremely difficult circumstances.

"I'm not going to sit here and claim that we've done the best that can be done," Katz said. "I will say to you that we used all the resources that we have... and (are) doing the best we can."

The city's public works department has been heavily criticized for failing to remove the ruts before the temperatures dropped and turned them rock-solid.

Katz, along with Coun. Justin Swandel, chairman of the public works committee, and public works director Brad Sacher, said decisions were made by experienced officials, but the results were unexpected.

Sacher said the poor condition of the roads was largely the result of a combination of unusual weather factors: two snowstorms back to back that left 30 centimetres of snow, surrounded by frigid temperatures that created ruts and ridges akin to concrete and impossible to remove.

"Overall, both our contracted resources and our city resources have done a great job under very difficult circumstances," Sacher said.

"We've had some really unprecedented things happening... We're going to have problems, we did have problems, and we've been addressing them."

Katz defended the public works officials, saying it's always easier to make better decisions after the fact.

"The realities are the (public works) department followed the policy, which was set by council and, based on that policy, they decided when (crews) are going to go out," Katz said.

"If someone had a crystal ball and could have seen everything in the future, they might have made different decisions."

Sacher and Katz said the snow clearing wasn't affected by budget considerations but what officials believed were the correct moves to make at the time.

Despite the high praise by Sacher, Swandel (St. Norbert) said the work of every private contractor will be reviewed prior to contracts being renewed for next winter.

Sacher said the coming warmer weather will make it easier to remove the ruts and make the streets passable. He outlined a series of snow-clearing efforts that will be taking place over the next few days, including:

Crews will finally make it to Island Lakes and the Maples -- two neighbourhoods where the private contractor failed to do any residential street clearing during two street-clearing initiatives -- and that work should be done by Saturday.

Residential sidewalks will be cleared beginning this morning. However, Sacher said the normal five-day effort will likely take seven days to complete because of the heavy, compacted snow.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition January 9, 2014 A3

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