Ottawa

Snow removal company's abrupt closure leaves 1,500 customers out in the cold

Some 1,500 residential customers of an Ottawa snow removal company have been left holding the shovel after two of its branches abruptly announced they're shutting down, effective immediately. 

Metro Snow & Ice Management shutting down Barrhaven, Merivale operations

Longtime Metro customer James Careless said he was encouraged to pay in full for snow removal this winter. He's not optimistic he'll get any of his money back. (James Careless )

Some 1,500 residential customers of an Ottawa snow removal company have been left holding the shovel after two of its branches abruptly announced they're shutting down, effective immediately. 

In an email to customers Thursday, Ken Dale, president of Metro Snow & Ice Management said it's with "profound regret" that he's announcing the closure of his company's "independent franchises" serving the Barrhaven and Merivale areas. A third branch, Metro Westend, isn't affected, Dale wrote.

"I suspect customers will be upset and it is certainly disappointing. I'm trying my best to give options to customers especially my older more senior clients," Dale said in a separate email to CBC.

Dale blames "a substantial decrease in customers" and what he claims is a "300% increase in insurance costs, fuel costs and overall operating and equipment carrying costs." He also cites his own "declining health."

Paid in full

Among Dale's customers left scrambling to find a new snow removal company are Susan Olszynko's parents. The couple, in their 90s, live on their own in a Barrhaven townhouse.

"I'm really upset because my father has had numerous times when we've had to ambulance him to the hospital," Olszynko said. "My concern is to keep that driveway clear so ... in the middle of the night an ambulance can get him out."

Olszynko said she's been trying to find another company to take over, but with 10 centimetres of snow expected Saturday, she'll probably be the one doing the shovelling.

T​​​​​he company has all my money and, well, I'm out of luck.- James Careless, customer

Metro Barrhaven and its predecessor, Appleseed Snow Blowing Services, have been clearing James Careless's driveway near Woodroofe Avenue and Fallowfield Road for more than a decade. 

Unlike past years, when he's paid in two instalments, Careless said Metro encouraged him to pay one lump sum of $446 back in October.

"The company has all my money and, well, I'm out of luck," he said.

Careless said he's contacted two other snow removal companies, but was told they're not taking on more customers.

"This is a problem because Metro really dominates our community," Careless said.

'I'm shocked'

In the email to clients, Dale said he expects "a trustee will be assigned to liquidate Barrhaven and Merivale Metro assets, resolve debt and address any 'pro rated' customer refunds from the remaining proceeds during the winding down process. Refunds if available should take place over the summer of 2020."

Dale said he's made efforts to reach out to competitors to take over his contracts, and is offering customers a $10 discount for an on-demand snow clearing service called Touchplow — a company Dale confirmed to CBC he owns.

That's not going over well with customers.

"I'm shocked that he is referring me to a company that he owns, and how can he do that and claim insolvency?" Olszynko asked.

"Doesn't this mean I'm paying him twice to clear my driveway?" Careless demanded.

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