Dennis O'Keefe defends St. John's snowclearing record

O'Keefe says crews have followed proper snowclearing protocols set up by the city during this week's unexpected spring storm, despite complaints from residents.

Mayor says crews followed protocol for unexpected snowfall

A garbage truck lost control while trying to get down a hill in St. John's on Tuesday. The truck hit several parked vehicles, blocking traffic on Bond Street at the bottom of Chapel Street. (Photo submitted by Earl Noble)

The mayor of St. John's says crews have followed proper snowclearing protocols set up by the city during this week's unexpected spring storm, despite complaints from residents.

Recent layoffs of snowclearing crews have caused backlash from St. John's residents who said the city shifted to spring staffing too soon.

Dennis O'Keefe said Monday's storm, which dropped 20 centimetres of snow on the city, was an unexpected amount of snowfall that no one anticipated.

O'Keefe said city snowclearing crews responded appropriately to the snowfall.

"When we have a snowfall of 25 centimetres or less, given the end of that snowfall, every street in the city will have a cut within 12 hours, and that protocol was pretty well followed," he said.
Dennis O'Keefe says the city has been following normal protocol for snowclearing procedures, but couldn't have anticipated the unexpected snowfall on Monday. (CBC)

"I mean, there are streets that sometimes are slow getting done and … nothing is perfect. There are streets that may have gotten missed, and crews would go back to do those streets, but that's the protocol."

O'Keefe added that the city decided to bring 30 of the staff back on following layoffs, bringing the number of crew back up to 80.

Eulogy for a lost car

But at least one person in St. John's would have to disagree with O'Keefe that the snowclearing has been adequate this week.
The back of Matt Wright's 2007 Toyota Corolla was knocked off after being hit and dragged by a St. John's garbage truck. (CBC)

Local comedian Matt Wright was the unlucky downtown resident who looked out his window to find his car at the bottom of the hill, after a city garbage truck hit it.

Wright said he look out his window to find the truck struggling to get control as it tried to navigate down Chapel Street, which he said hadn't been plowed at that point in the day.

"My car was parked directly in front of my house, and then the garbage truck hit it, and then it was not," Wright said.

The truck slid down the hill, taking Wright's car and another vehicle with it, and smashed into parked cars at the bottom of Chapel St. at Bond St.

Wright said the cause of the accident was clearly related to the amount of snow still on the road.

"The city garbage truck slid down into my car because it was going down a street which wasn't safe to drive on — that's fairly clear to me. So you can kind of put … two and two together," he said.

"When my street is clear, that garbage truck generally never hits my car … it didn't happen until this time, so I don't think that's a huge coincidence."
Matt Wright says it's pretty clear the accident that totalled his car was caused by a lack of snowclearing on his street. (CBC)

O'Keefe said the cause of the accident is still under investigation, but any damages will be covered under the city's insurance program.

An independent review of the city's snowclearing processes will be conducted in the spring. O'Keefe said he personally hopes the study finds a way to increase the amount of sidewalk clearing the city can do.

O'Keefe said he encourages residents to take part in the city's new public engagement program started earlier this month to help come up with solutions to the snowclearing debate.

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