‘Painting the town brown’
If you’re wondering which side of the street the Town of Slave Lake is going to store snow this year, there are a couple of ways to find out. One is to remember which side they piled it on last year.
If that doesn’t work, somewhere on the town website is a map of the town showing which routes get priority in snow clearing. Another map shows where snow gets stored in residential areas. If it works as depicted, you’ll get the snow on your side in even-numbered years if your house number is even. If it’s odd, look for a windrow on your side of the street in odd-numbered years.
Cul-de-sacs are a different kettle of fish, as everybody who lives in one knows. Properties have very little frontage, so snow has to be piled in the middle of the bulb. The pile gets hauled once the complete circuit of residential plowing is finished, operations director Calvin Couturier told council at its Nov. 17 meeting.
Councillor Darin Busk noted that “we’ve had issues” with cul-de-sac snow management. For one thing, piles of snow in the middle of the bulbs seem to be there longer than they should. True enough, said Couturier, but the ones that come from town street-clearing do get removed fairly quickly. The ones that linger tend to be the result of private driveway-clearing efforts. He noted that town bylaw forbids property owners from using town property to store their snow.
“We could schedule trucks,” to remove those piles more often, he said. “It’s just more money.”
Another thing to think about is the liability of having a pile of snow in the street. Busk said kids will play on piles of snow, and sliding kids and traffic is a bad mix. Couturier said town staff are trained in the risks. Before they remove a pile of snow, they are instructed to walk around it and “look in the foxholes. Kids are kids,” he added. “They’ll tunnel in anything.”
As to which quadrant of town gets plowed first, council heard last week that crews keep track (even from one year to the next) and always start in the next quadrant that’s due, going in clockwise direction.
As far as sanding goes – the main routes get it; residential areas on lower-priority routes will only get sand at intersections regularly. The exception to that practice would be when there’s been freezing rain, say. Then the entire town might be sanded.
“We call it painting the town brown,” Couturier said, at council’s Nov. 17 meeting.
As far as downtown goes, it gets the snow hauled away periodically. It’s more costly, so it doesn’t happen that often, which can leave the downtown streets looking sloppy compared with the rest of town. Noting this, mayor Warman asked Couturier if the practice can be ‘tweaked a bit’ to improve the look of downtown streets between snow hauls.
“We are doing mini clean-ups downtown,” Couturier said. “You’ll see piles at the end of the parking stalls.”
“I like that philosophy,” said Warman.
Another question arose: what if the crews are well into their residential clearing and it starts snowing heavily again?
“We can split the crews,” said Couturier. “One crew will stay and if we get another big dump, one crew will go back to Priority #1.”
Priority 1 streets are a small set, covering downtown to the hospital and from there to the airport. They always get first attention after a snowfall. Next (Priority 2) are the big collector routes, including Main St. Caribou Trail, both 6th Aves. (north and south) and a few smaller bits here and there.