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City buried under avalanche of snow removal complaints

BY TRACEY DUGUAY ?I hate to tell you I told so, but I told you so.

?I hate to tell you I told so, but I told you so.?

Ward 3 Councillor Andre Rivest, a vocal opponent of the new winter operation policy, couldn?t help gloating when he heard about the large number of complaints received by the city following a major dumping of the white stuff earlier this week.

Close to 40 centimetres of heavy snow blanketed the streets in Greater Sudbury, leaving some residents stranded. The city received close to 300 phone calls from frustrated taxpayers complaining about inadequate snow plowing, snow banks piled too high, or slippery and dangerous road conditions.

However, those numbers don?t take into account callers who gave up after being on hold too long or those who contacted their ward representatives directly.

?I called myself and it took from six to seven minutes because the lines were busy,? said Ward 2 Councillor Ron Bradley.

The bulk of the calls came from the south and southeast sections of the city, with the most complaints involving residential and rural streets.

According to the new winter operations service level standards, class 4-6 residential and rural routes, the ones residents claim received poor service during the last storm, will be dealt with in an eight to 24-hour timeframe after being blanketed by eight to 10 inches of snow.

In December, Rivest argued service levels should increase for Class 4-6 routes from five to 10 inches accumulation within eight to 24 hours, rather than the eight to 10 inches as outlined originally.

Council voted against the idea because it would cost an extra $548,241 a year.

But, after getting calls on Sunday and Monday from angry residents who couldn?t drive down their streets or who lost money because they couldn?t get to work, many councillors are now questionning their decision.

?Councillor Rivest was right, he told us we?d regret it,? said Ward 3 Councillor Ron Dupuis.

Most councillors agreed snow removal crews did a great job maintaining the arterial and collector routes, but the system definitely broke down when it came to other streets.

?It was nice to have the main artery open, but they couldn?t get to it,? said Ward 1 Councillor Eldon Gainer.

He spoke about how residents had to help push an ambulance that was stuck in their subdivision. Using his own truck, Gainer towed a city plow truck when it bogged down in the deep snow.

Al Stephen, general manager of infrastructure and emergency services for the city, took the blame for the snow removal problems. He said the crew did a great job according to the directions they were given by his department.

Stephen presented council with a list of corrective actions for the next storm. Some of these measures included drawing on an expanded pool of city employees and outside drivers if needed, evaluating existing routes and possibly designed new ones, establish a 24/7 vehicle repair program, and changing the hours of operation for the call centre.

With another storm warning issued and 10-15 centimetres of snow expected in the next 24 hours, Stephen?s corrective actions will be put to the test sooner than later.