When the ruts on Red Deer streets start to resemble the Rocky Mountains and the road surfaces start to meet Olympic bobsledding standards, city crews find themselves having to take it on the chin.
An informal online poll at bprda.wpengine.com over the weekend asked the question: In your view, does the City of Red Deer do a good job of keeping roads clear of ice and snow? The final result was Yes 99 votes, No 452 votes. An overwhelming majority (82 per cent) of those who responded are not happy with the city.
It isn’t fair to criticize City of Red Deer road crews for the terrible condition that side streets and many main roads and intersections were in, Saturday and Sunday especially, and again Monday morning when near-record lows hit, creating very icy conditions.
Last weekend’s storm, which began in earnest on Thursday overnight into Friday, was not average. It was a blow-me-down and then freeze-me-to-death blizzard.
I can’t recall the last time I saw so much snow fall so fast and heavy in Red Deer. There would be a lot of newcomers to our city who would never have seen such an intense storm here. Friday morning as the storm began to gather force, you couldn’t keep your shovel idle for even a minute or the effort would be covered in again.
City crews were kept busy just trying to keep bridges and hills traversable. Living in a river valley makes it essential these two areas be kept as safe as possible first. Roads to the hospital and high collision areas were also top priority. Last on the list are residential areas, unless a street becomes impassable. Right now, there are no plans for an expensive general clearance of all residential streets. The city actually brought in outside help over the weekend to work on roads.
The snow-clearing budget is about $2 million a year now. How much more are taxpayers willing to dish out to have streets in perfect shape all winter long?
More snow is forecast this week, so city crews trying to catch up may not see relief any time soon.
Let’s cut these guys a break. During storms, they work in ugly conditions, for long hours, day and night shifts, and they put up with a lot of complaints. They are on the streets so much during adverse conditions that their chances of being involved in a collision are probably higher than average.
Meanwhile, many citizens did take ownership of the problems created by the weekend storm. Neighbours helped neighbours with digging out from all the beautiful big drifts of sculpted snow that were to be marvelled over. While out shovelling (again) Saturday, one of our neighbours came roaring out of his garage with his mighty snowblower and cleared more than a few driveways, including ours. On Sunday morning, another neighbour brought in a Bobcat to clear the snow out of his driveway, which was completely blown in. He then went on for hours to clear the entire street on the close of snow. Talk about a snow angel.
There’s no force greater than Mother Nature. City road crews, like the rest of us, are at her mercy. They don’t control the amount of snow that falls, and they don’t control the temperature. And they don’t control the city’s snow-removal budget. City council does. If you have a beef about city roads, maybe that’s where you should take it.
Mary-Ann Barr is Advocate assistant city editor. She can be reached by email at barr@reddeeradvocate or by phone at 403-314-4332.