Montreal ice storm salting, snow removal given poor grade

The city could have done a better job at salting and clearing sidewalks during and following an ice storm on the first weekend of January, says a new auditor report released Wednesday.

City should create a central standard for snow clearing in winter storms, auditor says

Freezing rain and a rapid drop in temperature on the first weekend of January made for very slippery conditions. (Radio-Canada)

The city could have done a better job at salting and clearing sidewalks during and following an ice storm on the first weekend of January, says a new auditor report released Wednesday.

The report called out several boroughs for poor response to a storm that turned Montreal streets and sidewalks into a massive skating rink.

The audit covered the period between Jan. 2 and 9.

The boroughs referenced most in the audit are L'Île Bizard-Ste-Geneviève, the Southwest, LaSalleAnjouAhuntsic-Cartierville and Montreal North boroughs.

The Southwest borough was the most heavily criticized in the report, on several points including keeping functional equipment in the garage, having broken and inoperable equipment, not clearing sidewalks in a timely manner and worker absenteeism.

In L'Île-Bizard–Sainte-Geneviève, only 50 percent of the equipment was used because the other half was broken.

The report also mentions that snow-clearing and salting operations in Plateau-Mont-Royal experienced significant slow-downs due to more than a thousand towing operations and having to repair five water main breaks.

One policy to rule them all?

On Wednesday, Mayor Denis Coderre admitted there was a series of failures that led to an influx of more than 3,000 complaints from residents.

He said each borough has its own policy, which allows for too many inefficiencies. He said there should be only one standard when it comes to cleaning up after a storm.

"We have to make sure that everybody is doing the same thing so we're talking about standards here. We can all work together to create different kind of pools based on equipment and manpower to be able to act react and prevent," Coderre said.

However, it may be easier said than done.

Michel Parent, head of the blue collar workers' union, said boroughs are territorial about the equipment because if it breaks, they are responsible to pay to fix it — not the borough who they loaned it to.

Key recommendations

  • The city should establish service norms for all the boroughs.
  • Plowing and salting sidewalks is sometimes more urgent than clearing snow, and service should be adjusted accordingly.
  • Improving communication to residents about when they could expect to have their neighbourhood’s sidewalks and streets cleared and salted.
  • The mixture for sidewalk abrasives should also be reviewed, since some mixtures work better than others depending on the type of precipitation. The audit recommended doing research to find out which abrasives work the best in each possible scenario.

Read the whole report (in French) here.


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