nb-snow-sidewalks-saint-john

Several sidewalks in Saint John remained snow-covered on Friday. (CBC)

City of Saint John officials admit they're disappointed with snow removal in the city this week, but say some of the challenges have been beyond their control.

Sidewalks in many areas remained snow-covered on Friday, five days after the latest winter storm dumped about 25 centimetres of snow on Saint John.

Sidewalks are supposed to be cleared within four days of a storm under the city's Winter Management Plan.

"We're never pleased when we can't meet our objectives," deputy commissioner of transportation Kevin Rice told CBC News.

But there were several factors at play, he said.

"It's almost a record level snowfall at once. We had high winds, so everything we plowed on the sidewalks and streets blew snow back onto the work that was already done, so that was a challenge."

Problems with half of fleet

City crews also had to contend with equipment failure, said Rice.

At one point, half of the city's 14 sidewalk snow plows were out of commission, he said. And the city's fleet of sidewalk plows was already down by five due to budget cuts.

"Wet, heavy snow can have a major impact on wear and tear on equipment," Rice said.

"Equipment running around the clock will also be subject to a higher frequency for mechanical failure, as compared to an eight-hour shift, for example. When you run pieces of equipment around the clock, it tends to be a higher probability of mechanical breakdown."

City worker Matt Brown was trying to clear a sidewalk in Millidgeville, in the city's north end, on Thursday when his plow jammed up.

"Right now, it's held up, it's fetched up," he said.

In addition, some plow contractors piled snow onto sidewalks and right-of-ways, blocking access, said Rice.

Anyone who piles snow on sidewalks could be fined up to $500, he said.

Pedestrians forced onto streets

Saint John only services 60.1 per cent of the 400 kilometres of sidewalks in the city, noted Tim O'Reilly, the manager of the city's pedestrian and traffic services.

Crews are still hard at work, getting the remainder done, he said.

"Obviously any of the [sidewalks] we didn't meet the timeline on we're going to get them up as soon as we can," he said. "We're not giving up."

In the meantime, some residents, such as Vanessa Woodcock, have resorted to walking on the street.

"It's kind of dangerous walking on the road with the kids, but we make it," said Woodcock, who had a baby in a stroller and a seven-year-old in tow.

Woodcock hopes the sidewalks will all be cleared by next week, when children start school again.