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Snow consultant wants city to scrap ‘two-foot’ driveway policy

Social Services can assist seniors and other qualifying individuals who need help with heavy snow windrows
2016 - 02 - 01 - Public Works Snow Removal - Klassen -6-3
File photo by Jeff Klassen

An Ottawa-based consultant is recommending Sault Ste. Marie do away with its two-foot guideline for removing those hard piles of frozen snowarrhea that city plows leave in your driveway when they're cutting back the windrows on residential streets.

Brian Bourns from Maclaren Municipal Consulting will tell Monday's city council meeting that the practice of sending out supervisors to measure the depth of snow and ice when angry homeowners call has resulted in a "biggest source of complaints."

The results, Bourns says, are currently "inconsistent and unfair."

A slide deck prepared for his presentation on Monday suggests a grant may be needed to support low-income elderly or disabled ratepayers unable to do heavy shovelling.

Here's what residents find when they consult the city's website:

Will the end of my driveway be cleared if there is a large windrow at the end?

If the snow/ice is deposited there from a standard snow-plowing exercise (ie. during or following a snow event), the city will not be removing the windrow regardless of height.

When Public Works undertakes a 'cutting' exercise (ie. scrapping down significant snowpack on the road), supervisors will assess whether or not a loader will be used to clear the end of the private driveways.

Social Services is the lead organization with an annual service provider selected to offer this service for seniors and other qualifying individuals.

Five years ago, the two-foot policy was outlined at a city council meeting by Larry Girardi, the city's deputy chief administrative officer for public works and engineering services.

Girardi explained that the measurement is more a guideline than a rule, but if a supervisor visits and finds the material is more than two feet deep, he or she may decide to have it cleared at the city's expense.

It would cost more than a million dollars to clean ends of driveways after graders scraping the ice and packed snow off city streets, he said.

Here are some other possible improvements to be presented by Bourns next week:

  • reduce volumes of sand and salt by adding pre-wetting materials as dispersed
  • anti-icing (distribution before events)
  • cover sand pile with tarps
  • combine salt/sand routes with plow routes
  • continue to review sidewalks each fall
  • consider pedestrian volumes as well
  • support use of hired trucks for snow removal

Monday's city council meeting will be live-streamed on SooToday starting at 4:30 p.m.

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David Helwig

About the Author: David Helwig

David Helwig's journalism career spans seven decades beginning in the 1960s. His work has been recognized with national and international awards.
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