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Plowing falls short of expectations

Red Deer’s snow plowing is off to a bumpy start.

Some areas look to have seen big improvements, but in Vanier Woods one resident is fuming at the city’s performance.

“They did absolutely nothing. It is unbelievable,” said Laurie McAuley, who lives on Vanson Close where graders went through on Tuesday. “The people are still getting stuck in all the places that they cleared.” She called the city to complain and was told Vanier Woods was considered completed.

Neighbours came home from work on Tuesday and were incredulous when told graders had come and gone.

“When they said they were here, they said, ‘You’ve got to be kidding.’

Ninety per cent of Vanier is a mess. I’m angry because we pay so much, you and I and everybody else.”

A drive through the neighbourhood seemed to support McAuley’s concerns. Some roads are hardly more than bumpy, icy tracks gouged by deep ruts. While there is little loose snow, most vehicles were creeping about at 10 to 15 km/h on Wednesday.

However, it was a different picture on Keith Close in Kentwood. It was clear where plows had been through scraping the top layer of snow smooth, throwing up windrows about 40 cm high on each side. Other streets in the neighbourhood were much rougher. A similar scene could be found in Inglewood where residential streets appeared to be in much better shape than major routes following the plowing.

Justin Kinnear was out clearing snow outside a Keith Close home and was fine with the city’s effort.

“I guess they did what they could. There was a lot of snow,” he said.

The road is “way better” than Monday when his girlfriend texted him pictures of cars stuck on the curve just outside the house. “There were four or five cars piled up.”

The city announced on Wednesday that it will begin clearing lanes to make it easier for residents to move their vehicles off roads ahead of plows.

One of the biggest problems, snow clearing crews faced on the first day was the number of vehicles left on city streets, many of them snowed in.

Mayor Tara Veer said she’s well aware of the trouble residents have faced getting around and she appreciates the public’s patience.

“Really, the whole purpose of this plow is to get the community accessible so people can get in and out of their homes and so emergency vehicles have access to neighbourhoods.

“A surface plow is not ideal. An obviously some citizens are frustrated because it is not the same type of service level that we would normally provide.”

The goal was to the get the city passable as quickly as possible. A full residential plow down to the pavement would take about 45 days.

“While it’s not perfect, making residential streets passable was likely the best option given the choices we had in front of us.”

Residents who are finding roads impassable or potentially dangerous are advised to call the city at 403-342-8238.

Once this round of plowing is complete, the snow clearing debate will not be over. Council has committed to reviewing its snow and ice policy annually and that will be happening soon.

Among the issues on the table is whether another plow will be done once the first phase is complete and other high-priority areas, such as bus routes and high-collision intersections are taken care of and a lane way plow completed.

“Absolutely, if citizens are still not satisfied with a surface plow, or there are additional snow events that are making conditions worse, if another residential plow needs to occur, then by all means we will do that,” said Veer.

Council is expected to take a close look at residential plowing and the amount of time it takes.

“I don’t think that our citizens are finding the 40 days of service satisfactory,” she said. “Having said that, if we want to improve that service level and close the gap on 40 days, and reduce the number of days it takes to do a residential plow, there will need to be a substantial investment to do that.”

Snow plowing was on the agenda elsewhere as well.

In Sylvan Lake, a special council meeting was held on Wednesday afternoon to discuss snow clearing.

The town had cleared 30 per cent of local roadways on Wednesday and expected to have half done by the end of Thursday.

Council has approved a $150,000 “over-expenditure” for snow clearing in this year’s budget.

In Red Deer County, blowing snow also created headaches.

One resident had to spend the past two days in a local motel because she couldn’t reach the farmhouse a few kilometres west of Red Deer Airport because roads were blocked by drifting snow.



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