NEWS
02/15/2017 16:12 EST | Updated 02/16/2018 00:12 EST

Snow removal operations in Southwest borough called 'pitiful'

Snow removal operations are underway around Montreal, with wide discrepancies in progress being reported across the city's 19 boroughs.

Saint-Léonard leads the city with 74 per cent of its streets cleared of snow as of 3:30 p.m. Wednesday, according to the city's Info-Neige website.

At the same time, at 17 per cent, the Southwest borough was by far the city's worst laggard.

'Pitiful'

Saint-Henri resident Valérie Bornerand described the snow removal operations in the Southwest borough as "pitiful."

"[It's] the worst it's ever been in the 17 years I've been living here. It's horrible," she said.

"You go around for an hour, an hour-and-a-half, looking for parking. It's crazy."

Bornerand and another Saint-Henri resident, Michael Colligen, said signs warning of plowing operations have been going up, but nothing happens.

"I've been moving the car for three days, and there's never nothing cleaned up," Collingen said.

"They put up signs, they take them down, then put them back up — it's terrible."

Southwest borough blames contractor

Southwest councillor Craig Sauvé cautioned that the percentages provided by the city's Info-Neige website are not entirely accurate, but he acknowledged the borough is having trouble with its private contractor, Pavages D'Amour.

"I'm extremely disappointed with the snow removal this year," Sauvé told CBC Montreal. "In terms of speed and quality, it's not there."

The company already faces fines related to other complaints this winter. In one incident, a sidewalk plow crushed a bike. In another, a plow dragged garbage bags and cans along a street in Pointe–​Saint-Charles.

- VIDEO: Montreal contractor faces fine after video shows snow-clearing vehicle crushing bike

Sauvé said the borough has now assigned foremen to assess the situation.

"These foremen have other work to do, other things that can be done with their time. So we're losing resources, citizens are rightfully frustrated, and it's not a positive scenario for anybody," Sauvé said.

CBC spoke with one of the contractor's sidewalk plow operators who had stopped in the middle of the sidewalk to send a text message.

The operator said crews have been working up to 36-hour shifts and need help.

"It's not easy for residents, and it's not easy for us," he said.

CBC contacted the company's owner, Stéphane D'Amour, but has yet to receive an answer.

Sauvé said the contractor faces fines that will be deducted from its contract with the borough.

Almost 45 cm of snow since Sunday

According to Environment Canada, 29 centimetres of snow fell on the greater Montreal area between Sunday afternoon and Monday morning.

That was followed by another system Wednesday that's expected to result in up to another 15 centimetres of accumulated snow by Thursday morning.

City of Montreal spokesman Jacques-Alain Lavallée said operations in some areas have been temporarily suspended to focus on plowing streets and sidewalks around Metro stations, bus stops, hospitals and schools.

Lavallée said residents can help speed up operations in their boroughs by respecting the signs indicating the times when a street will be cleared.

"Every time, on average, we have to tow 6,500 cars every snow removal operation. That is the major factor that slows down our operations," he said.

The city provides 5,700 parking spots where residents can park free of charge during snow clearing operations.

According to the snow removal plan released by the city in December, each borough has 12 hours to begin snow removal operations once the order is given by the city.

Boroughs then have 32 hours to complete the removal on main arteries.

Snow must be removed within 96 hours on secondary and local roads when a storm results in 20 centimetres of snow or less.