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This article was published 7/2/2020 (500 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Revealed in internal emails, the City of Winnipeg's reaction to two residents' attempt at a good deed is "baffling" to one of the men responsible for clearing ice and snow from a well-used Wolseley footbridge this winter.
"The duplicity of what they communicated privately and what they communicated publicly in their news release, it's just baffling... Saying one thing privately and another thing publicly, you know, making us look bad," Brad Hignell said.
The Wolseley homeowner joined forces with fellow neighbourhood resident Chris Beauvilain to clear the bridge over Omand's Creek after the city closed it in early December.
Internal emails obtained by the Canadian Taxpayers Federation via a freedom-of-information request and shared with the Winnipeg Free Press show city staff initially weren't planning to clear the bridge because it would take a "big effort."
"It may have to wait until spring," a city staffer wrote in one of the emails.
After the two men cleared the bridge using handtools, their work was described as "reckless" and showing a disregard for public safety.
"Actions of the citizens to remove signing and barricades and ice is reckless and should be dealt with," bridge planning and operations engineer Darren Burmey emailed communications staff. "And they have not recognized slip hazards nor could of know (sic) the bridge was not closed for structural reasons."
Hignell said the emails seem to cast a bad light on the work he and Beauvilain completed in one afternoon.
"They went and blamed Chris and I," he said in an interview Friday. "Meanwhile, we did them a favour and we got things rolling. It was completely rude."
Despite a suggestion the two men could be fined for taking the ice and snow removal into their own hands, a city spokesperson said Friday it hasn't happened.
"The city is not taking any action against the residents at this time," Julie Dooley wrote in an email.
Hignell said it would be a "PR nightmare" for the city to issue fines over this; the issue has already attracted much more attention than he ever thought it would.
He said he doesn't regret his actions, especially as someone who grew up in Wolseley and used the footbridge frequently over the years.
"Not at all. It made the community happy; it makes it easier for anybody who lives in Wolseley to access the park and anybody who's coming to the park to access Wolseley, and people use it a lot," Hignell said.
"Hopefully, it encourages people to just do the right thing — you don't need the city or any other government, for that matter, to solve simple problems for you. And if they're going to cut services, why the heck aren't they going to cut my taxes, you know, I think I pay enough."