New Brunswick

Oromocto residents love their snow gates — even if town finds them costly, inefficient

The snow gate sounds great in theory, but it’s costly and inefficient, according to the supervisor of roads and grounds for Oromocto, the only town in Atlantic Canada to use snow gates.

Snow gates cost about $10,000 apiece, but the expense doesn't stop there

A snow gate, which stops snow from being deposited in driveways, is attached to the wing of an Oromocto town plow. (CBC)

The description of a snow gate — a hydraulic wing that's dropped by a passing plow to capture snow that would otherwise block a driveway — is music to the ears of any homeowner.

But municipalities that have to pay for the equipment aren't singing the device's praises.

The snow gate sounds great in theory, but it's costly and inefficient, according to the supervisor of roads and grounds for Oromocto, the only town in Atlantic Canada to use the gates.

Scott Brewer said the town had once done away with snow gates, or "wing boards," three years ago, but the decision was reversed after backlash from residents.

Currently, about half a dozen of the town's snow-removal vehicles are equipped with snow gates, he said.

Each gate costs about $10,000, but there's added expense, he said.

Oromocto is the only Atlantic Canadian town to employ snow gates. (CBC)

In 2015, Oromocto measured how much it costs to operate plows with snow gates. Brewer said it's estimated that costs rise by 25 per cent per storm.

"It slows your machine down," he said. "Then there's the fuel costs."

Brewer said the gates aren't effective after more than five centimetres of snow falls or if a driveway is wide. The snow will spill out over the top and side if there's too much, he said.

Scott Brewer of the roads and grounds department in Oromocto says the snow gates are costly and inefficient during big storms. (CBC)

But snow gates are still popular among residents.

'It's a big burden off your back'

Todd Murrin thinks they're worth it. He was 10 years old when Oromocto plows were fitted with snow gates for the first time in 1974.

"When you have it, it's big a burden off your back," the resident said.

Oromocto resident Todd Murin says the snow gates are worth it because of the reduced burden on residents. (CBC)

Most snow shovellers would embrace less snow in their driveways, which is possibly why some municipalities generally don't want it mentioned, according to a manufacturer of the gates.

Craig Manufacturing in Hartland has sold about 25 snow gates, primarily to Oromocto, said Jay Brown, a longtime employee.

He said he encountered opposing views in Newfoundland and Labrador.

"I tried to actually sell one in Newfoundland and one of the cities in Newfoundland, they have a number of machines, like 20-plus, and I suggested they try this on one of their machines, and the guy just laughed at me and said, 'No, we don't want to do that, because we'll end up putting them on all the machines we have,'" Brown said.

A 1963 article in the Winnipeg Free Press has a front page story on its brand new snow gate. A year later it was dropped for being too expensive.

With files from Catherine Harrop

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