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Council votes to keep existing snow removal policy

By: Christina Waldner

  |  Posted: Thursday, Jul 10, 2014 10:03 am

Airdrie was hit by a masive snow storm Dec. 2 to 3, 2013, that strained city resources and residents' patience.
Airdrie was hit by a masive snow storm Dec. 2 to 3, 2013, that strained city resources and residents' patience.
File Photo/Rocky View Publishing

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In January, Airdrie City council was asked to consider a request from a resident who was interested in assisting in removing snow from residential streets. The request came after the city experienced a significant snow storm early in December 2013, that rendered many residential streets impassable and put a strain on existing City resources.

Staff was asked to look into the issue, and returned to council on July 7 with information regarding the viability of allowing private individuals to remove snow from city roadways. Under the current policy, only City employees or contractors hired by the City are legally allowed to do snow removal from roadways.

Sharon Pollyck, manager of Legislative Services at the City of Airdrie, told council the issue primarily comes down to liability.

The practice poses a risk to residents who could be injured while moving the heavy snow, she said. She added because they would not be City employees, the individual’s personal homeowner insurance policy would come into play.

If they didn’t have enough coverage, the City and the individual could be put in a precarious position, she said.

It could also be difficult for the City to establish responsibility if the individual incurred a loss of income.

Damage to the equipment used by the resident is also a possibility as is the chance they’d seek restitution from the City.

Pollyck said there could also be a negative impact on the City’s reputation if something was to happen.

Darryl Poburan, manager of Municipal Enforcement, said his officers spoke to a number of individuals during the December 2013 storm and its aftermath, issuing warnings but no tickets.

Poburan said his team has the ability to use their discretion during extreme weather events.

Alderman Darrell Belyk said while he appreciated the “human kindness variable” involved, liability and safety issues must take precedence.

Calling a state of local emergency when the city is hit by a significant snow storm is a possibility, according to Lorne Stevens, the City’s manager of Engineering Services and Public Works. A state of emergency can only be declared by the mayor or his designate and two additional members of council.

However, Poburan said declaring a state of local emergency would only happen in rare situations.

“The situation would have to be extremely dire to declare a state of emergency,” said Poburan. “Usually, there would have to be the potential for injury to residents.”

In December 2013, Stevens admitted City crews were overwhelmed by the amount of snow that fell in a short period of time, however, a plan was in place with first responders to ensure they could get where they needed to go and residents were never at risk.

“It was a major snow event,” said Stevens, “but we were in the same boat as our neighbours and it’s not like they could come to our rescue if we had declared a state of emergency.”

When a state of local emergency is declared, local contractors can essentially be conscripted to assist City staff.

The City is currently working to develop additional relationships with available contractors.

After Pollyck presented the information, she gave council the option of making a motion to change the existing policy to allow private individuals to assist with snow removal.

In light of the many liability issues outlined by staff, council decided to maintain the current policy, keeping the job of snow removal in the hands of City employees.


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