NEWS

Fed up, some in Saskatoon hire private plows for city streets

12/13/2012 05:13 EST | Updated 02/12/2013 05:12 EST
People in Saskatoon are taking matters into their own hands, fed up with a lack of attention from the city, and paying contractors to clear their streets of snow.

Jeremy Twordik told CBC News he has been receiving an unusually high number of requests from homeowners looking for a private-sector solution to piles of snow — and ruts — that have made navigating some streets difficult.

He said the problem seems to be worse in newer areas of Saskatoon.

"I've heard stories from moms with children that are trying to back up out of their driveways and they are getting hung up on these ruts," Twordik said. "They are by themselves trying to get ready to go to work and they can't push out the vehicle."

Depending on the length of the street and the work required, it costs from $1,500 to $6,000 to have a private contractor clear a residential area.

Kara Richards, in Saskatoon's Hampton Village neighbourhood, paid $50 to have someone clear some space in front of her home, pushing the snow from the street onto her lawn.

"It's kind of the rough look right now, but I had no choice," Richards said.

In Richards' case, a city plow had been in the area, but pushed snow on the street into long piles along the sidewalks.

So, while the driving lane was clear there was no place for people to park.

"People have parked really unsafely and they've been up on the snowbank a little bit but they're parked in the middle of the street practically," Richards said. "I know people have been borrowing each other's driveways, and trying to cram as many vehicles as they can into people's driveways, but it's really getting to be unsafe."

Bobcat operator Justin Eaton said he too is getting calls to move snow from city streets.

"Sometimes you get people calling to get their yards cleared up," he said. "But I've had calls this year to do the street and I've never had that before."

While many contractors, from plow operators to Bobcats, are OK with doing the work, another problem in Saskatoon is finding a place for the snow.

"Saskatoon is lacking snow dumps," Twordik said. "To get rid of the snow you have to take it somewhere."

City council in Saskatoon decided not to spend an extra $600,000 on residential street clearing this winter.

Officials working out a plan

An official with the city told CBC News Thursday that they were still working on a plan to deal with deep ruts in residential areas.

"Ruts are a problem," Mike Gutek, Saskatoon's infrastructure services manager, said. "When they are bad enough we do get in. If people want to go above and beyond that, we don't have a problem with that."

Gutek added if people are making private arrangements, it would be nice for them to notify city hall.

"We need to know because we need to be able to explain to other residents why that particular area would be done," he said. He added it sometimes happens that a private contractor doesn't put the snow in a proper place and the city ends up having to fix that.

According to figures from Environment Canada, as of Dec. 13, Saskatoon received about 60 centimetres of snowfall.

That compares to 26 centimetres for all of November and December of 2011.

Like Twordik, Eaton said the extra work is welcome, but he feels for taxpayers.

"It's fine for me but you'd think it could be something they would do with the taxes and that, to plow the streets," he said. "Even I have trouble with my truck getting through the ruts on some of the streets."

Richards agreed.

"I pay a ridiculous amount in taxes and I can't believe I have to fork out just to get the snow removed in front of my house," she said.

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