Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Don't blame us, say plow operators

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A grader clears snow on McGee Street Sunday night.

JOHN WOODS / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS Enlarge Image

A grader clears snow on McGee Street Sunday night. Photo Store

The brutal cold snap, several back-to-back heavy snowfalls and a lean city snow-removal budget have created a perfect storm of rutted streets, as slick as skating rinks, several snow-plow operators said.

"I think we've done a good job. Normally we get bouquets from some residents," said Bob Falzarano, with Mulder Construction, which holds the city contract for most of the St. James district. This year, he'll be filing six or seven MPI claims for run-ins with cars, instead.

A day after Mayor Sam Katz admitted he's not pleased with how private contractors have plowed some city streets, private contractors gave their perspective on the challenges they face.

And a senior spokesman for the heavy equipment industry said the whole city should be celebrating its survival instinct this winter, not griping about it.

City hall divides the city into six districts and issues contracts for snow removal to various contractors, usually construction companies that also pave roads, and the work they do is dictated by their contracts, they said.

Falzarano said it's not up to him or any of the other snow-removal contractors when they hit the road with plows, front-end loaders and dump trucks.

"As far as the snow, we go out when we're called. The city calls us out. We don't have a say in the matter," Falzarano said, adding the job's become more difficult during the brutal cold snap, with equipment breaking down.

Meanwhile, the mayor has said contractors won't be paid if officials in the public works department are not satisfied with the quality of the work.

"There's slippery spots out there," Katz said. "There's definitely a problem with ruts -- there's no question about that."

Contractors and spokesmen in their industry counter they've honoured city contracts for snow removal down to the letter.

"Our industry responds to its contracts; to oblige the contracts it has signed and if you want to work overtime, it's up to the employer," said Chris Lorenc, president of the Manitoba Heavy Equipment Association. That's the city, said Lorenc.

As a former city councilor, Lorenc said council has his sympathy.

This winter, it would have been impossible for the city to predict the overtime for snow clearing: "I don't think you can hold the city to account for what Mother Nature decides the weather will be," Lorenc said.

"This is the first winter I can recall where it's been said the surface of Mars is warmer than Winnipeg," Lorenc added.

alexandra.paul@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition January 8, 2014 A10

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