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Ancaster councillor promises to fix snow clearing problems

By Mike Pearson, News staff

Ancaster Councillor Lloyd Ferguson said the city will fix the deficiencies in its winter control program following a flurry of complaints to his office.
“Our service was awful,” Ferguson acknowledged in reference to a Dec. 26-27 storm that dumped 20 over centimetres of snow in some areas.

A city-wide review of snow clearing presented at a Jan. 16 public works meeting revealed five residential plowing routes which were not cleared 24 hours after the storm. A public works staff report also recommended the city terminate a contract with a non-responsive contractor. Councillors at the public works meeting said that while high priority roads such as the Lincoln Alexander Parkway, and the Red Hill Parkway were immediately cleared in record time, some secondary roads, and side streets were either ignored, or barely touched.

Ferguson said that while the city will review and improve its services, residents can ensure the safe passage of snow clearing equipment by keeping parked cars off residential streets.

Nearly one year after passing a public works resolution to improve snow clearing in residential areas of Ancaster, Ferguson is also looking forward to a staff report at the Feb. 4 public works committee meeting.

Last March, Ferguson passed a motion asking staff to create a new road category recognizing the uniqueness of Ancaster’s residential streets. Staff’s response to his request is anticipated next month.

Hamilton’s snow clearing priorities currently list three designations. Arterial roads such as Wilson Street are ranked as priority one, followed by major residential priority two streets such as Amberly Boulevard and Meadowlands Boulevard. Neighbourhood streets within urban areas are considered priority three. According to current policy, priority three routes are plowed only when snow accumulates above 10 centimetres.

Ferguson hopes to establish a new category that recognizes streets in the urban area of Ancaster that lack an urban cross section.

Ferguson said most of old Ancaster falls into a unique category because the streets have no sidewalks, curbs or storm sewers. He hopes to see Ancaster’s residential streets cleared at five centimeters to facilitate pedestrian access.

While he’s still awaiting a response to his resolution from city staff, Ferguson expects the city can accommodate the request using its own resources without additional costs to taxpayers.

“When our resources are finished with arterials they can go into the subdivisions,” said Ferguson.

At the public works committee earlier this month, city staff acknowledged its snow removal service failed residents. But staff promised improvements to prevent future problems.

“We did let the public down,” said Darrell Smith, manager of roads and maintenance. “We have taken steps not to let that happen again.”

Bryan Shynal, director of operations, blamed communications gaps, oversight problems, the inability to properly deploy equipment, and employee turnover for the poor service. Since Hamilton had its last serious snow storm two years ago, the city has seen a 66 per cent turnover in staff. The city hired new snow plow operators in 2012, which it does every five years, adding further inexperience to the city’s service.

Shynal said some private operators only provided half of the equipment that was required to the city during the storm event.

Hamilton has about 60 contractors, with 38 on call, and another 22 on standby.

-With files from Kevin Werner

 

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