Thursday July 10, 2014


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The great snow debate

Derek Bedry

Every day, unplowed streets and unshoveled sidewalks outside Ecole Central Elementary cause worry for some of the parents dropping off and picking up students.

With the latest snow dump piling up on already-towering snowbanks and filling parking lanes, the city government of Fort St. John is reminding citizens to be patient. Some look on the bright side, while others are not buying the explanation.

City manager Dianne Hunter said the massive snowbanks blocking drivers’ views when exiting parking lots are on the City’s radar.

“In regards to the snow banks, we’re having some guys assess the areas where it’s becoming a safety issue. It is the responsibility of the businesses to clear them,” she said. “We’ll be looking at some of those areas and see if we can knock some of those piles down.”

She added if an area seems neglected, it’s because City crews are working on other priorities.

“First is 100th and 100th, or the downtown core,” Hunter said. “Emergency routes and bus routes. Our policy is that everyone should be within three blocks of a plowed street at all times.” She said if people aren’t seeing plows there, the equipment would be in residential areas helping property owners. She added it is property owners’ responsibility to clear their frontages, but the city made a commitment to provide aid. “The message is ‘we’re all in this together,’ ” Hunter said. “If everybody does their part and works collaboratively, we’ll hopefully ensure we maintain safety for everybody.

Hunter encouraged citizens to look at the positives.

“The level of snowclearing Fort St. John provides is a higher level than other northern communities you’ll see,” she said. “Due to budget constraints, many cities will not do residential areas at all, so you’re on your own all winter. We’ve made a commitment to get in there as we’re able to do it. We’ve maintained a high level of snowclearing. Is it perfect? Absolutely not. Does it need improvement? Absolutely. … We appreciate [feedback] but everybody has to be patient.”

Hunter asked that people be aware of fire hydrants in their areas, as well, which should not be covered with snow. She said City crews will be out clearing snow from around the city’s 600 hydrants, but “you can imagine we’ll get through it a lot quicker if people help.”

But David Burridge, vice principal at Ecole Central Elementary, said the excuse shirks accountability.

“Do you want to look at the lowest common denominator, or do you want to reach to be better? Do you want to look at what people don’t do or do you want to improve?” Burridge said. “Grande Prairie never does residential plowing, but does that make it good? If you ask them if they would like to, they’d probably say yeah, they would. We wouldn’t get away with that in our system, saying ‘we do this better than that school so it’s good.’ ”

Burridge said he sees children having to walk around snowbanks, avoiding snowy sidewalks to get to school and he worries about them stepping onto the street. “They [the City] have never cleared the pathway through from Peace River Road and into the back of our playground. That’s an area our kids walk on lots and that’s never been done.”

He added the end of the school day is bedlam with cars flooding the area for pickup, and he is concerned about the safety of children under the conditions.

Bobbi Pardy’s children are enrolled at Central. She said she wished school zones were a higher priority for plowing.

“There was no snow plowed here, ever,” Pardy said. “I still see people fly through [school zones], I see kids chasing each other out into the street here.”

On Facebook, the Alaska Highway News asked if readers were satisfied with snow clearing. Kyla Blair said: “I live in a school zone and the plows have done our street twice--EVER! I've seen kids almost get hit by cars that are bouncing along the road.”

“My street is a dirt road on the transit route it is scrapped and the snow has been removed alot (sic) all winter. Good job. The problem is all the main streets and the drivers who think it is summer,” said Kimberly Dunleavy.

Brandy Lynn Utz said: “Considering the snow fall, they have been doing great. Be patient people. If you aren't happy, apply to work.”

The city of Fort St John broke an all-time snow record from 1957 at the end of December 2012.



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