St. John's snowclearing report suggests new depot, increased parking bans
An independent review of snowclearing in St. John's is recommending sweeping changes to the way the city provides the service.
The report was ordered last year after councillors were inundated with complaints about snowclearing.
- Snowclearing consultants get an earful in St. John's
- Dennis O'Keefe defends St. John's snowclearing record
Some changes such as creating a dedicated sidewalk clearing crew were adopted when the interim winter maintenance report came out last fall.
Public Works committee chair Jonathan Galgay said the public seems to be happier with winter services this year.
"You know, our calls dropped off this year in terms of the complaints we were getting," he said.
Hearing the public loud and clear
On Monday, he said the city will keep listening to residents when it comes to snowclearing.
"We'll never be able to guarantee that everything is 100 per cent right but one thing I can say is we are doing our best," he said.
"We put 100 per cent into this and moving forward we will always be open to feedback. This is not a done deal."
The final report recommends contracting out work when storms hit, and spending millions of dollars on a second city depot.
As well, there is a recommendation to institute an overnight parking ban on Water Street, which has support from the Downtown Development Commission.
Galgay said the city will act on some of the recommendations. For example, he said the city will soon issue a request for proposals for a $250,000 review of its fleet of almost 500 vehicles.
"We're going to do a full assessment of what we have in our fleet and all options are on the table," he said.
Here is a summary of some of the recommendations included in the winter maintenance report:
- A new city depot should be built for sidewalk snow machines and large snowblowers, and to accommodate continued growth in the city.
-Plowing of (Priority 3) residential streets should be redesigned to improve the efficiency of each pass and minimize the frequency that driveways need to be shoveled.
-Sidewalk service levels should be improved by starting earlier and focusing on high priority sidewalks.
-Hire or train a new resource person skilled in the use of Routesmart, software used to manage vehicle routes; as well, plowing routes for roads should be redesigned.
-Snow removal should start earlier during snowfalls to improve sidewalk and road conditions, using privately hired equipment (trucks and loaders) to expand capacity during major events.
-Public education/information should be improved as described in the report to reduce the need for staff directing traffic around snow removal crews.
-Seasonal workers should be engaged for a longer season (18 or 19 weeks, instead of 16 weeks) to provide resources for early or late storms; the city should also allow more time for training early in the season.
-The training program should be expanded, focusing on improving effectiveness, reducing equipment damage and improving supervisory skills with three new seasonal trainer positions.
-The city-wide overnight parking ban (from 1 a.m. to 6 a.m.) should go into effect on Water and Duckworth streets, which are now exempt, with the first major snowfall (expected to be 10 cm or more).
-A review of fleet operations should be conducted to consider how to improve efficiency and effectiveness. In the meantime, an "Equipment Coordinator" position should be added.
-A revised protocol for handling 311 calls on snow issues should be developed and external communications improved as described in the report.
-Plan for a new snow dumping site besides in St. John's harbour, to minimize traffic congestion and for environmental reasons.
-The review of design criteria for new subdivisions should consider winter maintenance requirements including consideration of the potential for storm water retention ponds to serve as local snow storage facilities.