By Graeme McNaughton/The Oshawa Express
The snow storm from the Feb. 20 left the city’s roads and sidewalks a mess, some of which took longer to clean up than others.
Peter Mooney is a downtown resident and volunteers at the Oshawa Senior Citizens Centre (OSCC) on the southeast corner of John and Centre streets. He says the centre’s attendees often do their grocery shopping at the nearby Metro, crossing the John Street bridge to get there. However, seniors looking to do that late last month had a serious obstacle in their way: snow.
“I made a couple of calls to the city on Sunday (Feb. 22), but all I got was the answering machine, of course. So I made another couple of calls on Monday and finally, because I work over the (OSCC) there on a Monday volunteering, and on my way home at about 5 p.m., it still hadn’t been done, so I walked on the road, which of course isn’t very safe,” Mooney tells The Oshawa Express. “I actually got dressed again in the evening at about 7:30 p.m. to go and have a look and it still hadn’t been done. This was 48 hours since the snow stopped falling, and as far as I’m concerned, that’s just totally unacceptable.”
Phil Lyon, the city’s manager of road operations, says there may have been a misunderstanding on how long the city has to clear the sidewalks following a snow storm.
“The standard is that all municipal sidewalks need to be cleared by midnight the first day after the storm ends,” he says. “So a lot of times, what I think people, when they say, ‘Oh, it wasn’t cleared for two days,’ a lot of times those people think it’s from when the snow started. I think some people get misunderstood on how many days after the storm (the city has to clear the sidewalks).”
Lyon says when snow first started falling on the Friday evening – Feb. 20 – crews focused on getting the roads cleared, with an additional six centimetres of snow falling the following day. He went on to say the sidewalk maintenance route that includes the John Street bridge didn’t begin to get cleared until the Sunday, Feb. 22.
“Then it broke down,” he says. “It was down for three or four hours. And then over the night of Feb. 22 into the 23rd (Monday), that route was worked on, and then completed early on the 24th (Tuesday).”
Lyon adds that on the night of the 23rd, all of the snow from the bridge, including the snow banks, was cleared.
Another factor working against those working to clear the snow from the city’s streets and sidewalks was the amount of hours being worked.
“There’s hours of work legislation that allows workers to work only 14 hours in a day, 13 driving. So, because we had back-to-back storms for the last three weeks or more, a lot of staff were at their maximum hours of work, which then puts a strain on finding resources to man the equipment,” Lyon says. “So that puts a big burden on deploying equipment. So we did have equipment on the route, but it broke down, so we were behind.”
Regardless of equipment failure, Mooney says the city’s priorities on what to plow first following a winter storm are misplaced.
“My concern is the fact that when we walked over on Sunday, all of the pathways through Memorial Park, they were all done. All of the sidewalks around City Hall were done, and they’re not even open on a Sunday,” he says. “So why can’t this bridge be made a priority when you have three huge senior buildings on the south side of the bridge?”
Mooney adds this isn’t the first time the John Street bridge has been low on the list to get plowed following a storm.
“It’s an ongoing issue. Last year, our eldest daughter’s fiance and myself called the city after waiting and waiting for it to be cleared. We gave them an hour, hour and a half before going to the papers,” he says. “We shouldn’t have to go to those lengths in order to get it done.”