City crews to take another run at sidewalk clearing

City crews plan to clear residential sidewalks Tuesday evening as Winnipeg continues to play catch-up on the pedestrian side of snow-clearing operations.

Heavy snow this winter challenges city sidewalk-clearing efforts, officials concede

Winnipeg streets maintenance manager Jim Berezowsky and chief administrative officer Doug McNeil told council's public works committee on Tuesday that the snow-clearing operations are designed to handle average years. (Bartley Kives/CBC News)

City crews plan to clear residential sidewalks Tuesday evening as Winnipeg continues to play catch-up on the pedestrian side of snow-clearing operations.

Over the past five weeks, more than 90 centimetres of snow has fallen in Winnipeg, a city that usually receives 114 centimetres of white stuff over the course of a year. While most city streets are in good to passable condition, the city's inability to clear all this snow off all its sidewalks has led to numerous complaints.

City crews plan to clear residential sidewalks Tuesday evening as Winnipeg continues to play catch-up on the pedestrian side of snow-clearing operations. 1:54

In a Tuesday morning appearance before council's public works committee, city officials in charge of snow clearing explained the double-whammy of snowstorms on Dec. 6 and Boxing Day left crews with little room to store snow, resulting in piles of snow on sidewalks that had to be cleared with slow-moving blowers.

Jim Berezowsky, the city's manager of street maintenance, said the height of snow on boulevards prevented crews from simply pushing accumulation off sidewalks. Blowing snow off sidewalks takes more time and the city only has about 33 machines to do the work, he said.

The city is testing out seven different models of sidewalk plows that can be fitted with various attachments and also be used for summer work such as lawn mowing, Berezowsky said. Each machine costs between $65,000 and $250,000, depending on the attachments, he said.

St. Boniface Coun. Matt Allard, who sits on the public works committee, said he's unsure whether the city ought to purchase more snow-clearing equipment because the city might not need it during a normal year. This winter has been the snowiest in 106 years, he said.

Brandi Baldwin and her kids were forced to walk on the road on their way to and from school Monday. Baldwin said the sidewalk on Coniston Street was completely buried. (Holly Caruk/CBC)

On the labour side, Berezowsky said he believes the city has the resources it needs to handle snow clearing. Crews will be out plowing sidewalks along residential streets this evening, he said.

Winnipeg chief administrative officer Doug McNeil said the city had no problem cleaning up after the Dec. 6 storm, but the Boxing Day storm and subsequent snowfall hampered clearing operations.

"We'd like to thank the public for their patience and co-operation," McNeil said.

Members of the public works committee accepted the explanation, though they did ask why some specific streets and sidewalks were cleared while others were not.

"Nothing​'s ever going to be exactly perfect," said chairman Marty Morantz (Charleswood-Tuxedo-Whyte Ridge).​

South Winnipeg-St. Norbert Coun. Janice Lukes, who chaired public works for two years prior to November, appeared before the committee to request the city do a better job of co-ordinating street clearing with sidewalk clearing.