Winnipeggers have certainly seen their fair share of snow this winter, and city snow-clearing crews have not been short of work, either.
Shortly after a recent large snowfall, a collection of front-end loaders made their way through our neighbourhood. They weren’t clearing main streets, however. This was the back-lane clearing crew, and huge windrows were left in the wake of the plowing in our neighbourhood.
These weren’t your ordinary foot-or-so-high berms of snow. Mountains of massive ice slabs were left blocking access to driveways and garages. We’re talking solid, ice-chunk barriers three-feet wide by three-feet high.
This surprise attack caused serious difficulties for people in our neighbourhood who weren’t able to remove the great mass. More than one neighbour of mine was caught unaware. One was just about to head out to an important appointment right when the lane was plowed.
Fortunately, she was able to wave down the operator. He very kindly returned and adequately cleared the berm well enough for her to get out. But if she hadn’t been outside at that moment, she would certainly have missed her appointment. My wife wasn’t able to get out of the garage to pick our son up at daycare. Fortunately she was able to make alternate arrangements and he was picked up late from daycare.
We are just one home on one street in one neighbourhood, of course. This surely caused bigger problems for other people. And there are much more important issues in this city.
But Winnipeggers really need to start holding the city accountable. We have minimum expectations of service and we do pay taxes, after all. With property taxes on the rise in Winnipeg, we expect service levels to be maintained. Snow plowing is just one of the many services we rely upon — and pay for — that seem to be in decline.
Lanes should usually be cleared after a large snowfall. The aim should certainly be to clear them before there’s excessive accumulation. If unreasonably large windrows are created.
In East St. Paul, windrows over 450 millimetres (18 inches) are removed, according to the rural municipality’s website. That seems like a reasonable expectation of service to me. The new snow zone system the city employs gives residents notice when streets in their area will be plowed.
But it does not apply to back-lane plowing. People should be given notice of lane clearing operations so that they can arrange to have their vehicles accessible. The City of Winnipeg is making use of many modern technologies and processes in other areas — but we can still be trapped in our own back lanes with no notice whatsoever.
Jody Gillis is a community correspondent for North Kildonan.