By Chris Lewis | Mar. 25, 2021
The Town of Carbonear may be working to expand its snow clearing policies.
On Tuesday evening, March 23, the Town of Carbonear’s council members met virtually for their regular meeting. During that meeting, councillor Amanda Dowden presented the public works committee report, wherein she mentioned that the committee had recently reviewed and gone over their snow clearing routes and put them out to councillors for review.
That was when councillor David Kennedy asked whether the Town had a precise snow clearing policy, to which Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) Cynthia Davis said there was a policy with respect to road widening and special situations like unexpected and heavy snowstorms.
Kennedy suggested it might be worth setting up a special committee to have a look through the Town’s road maintenance policies and budget, and put together a concrete snow clearing policy.
“(The committee) may only need to work on what is out there, how we come up with our routes, what are the outlines in a split shift, so that not only is the staff aware, but so is the council and town,” Kennedy said.
Kennedy suggested it be comprised of both council members and town staff.
“I’d like to see us review the various policies and procedures we’ve got in place,” he said. “These past few years, we’ve had much done with respect to residential and commercial areas of our town that have expanded. We’ve had a school that’s moved. So, I’d like to see where those areas stand with respect to snow clearing. A lot has changed in the last 10 or 12 years since (the policies) have been looked at.”
Councillor Ray Noel argued the town’s snow removal is second to none, but agreed a review of policies could be a good thing, even if it amounted to no changes.
Deputy Mayor Chris O’Grady said the policies have seen significant changes over the last few years, highlighting the depot that had been moved and the adjustments that had to be made once new subdivisions were developed.
He also said he had heard no complaints from residents, which other councillors echoed.
“With public works, well, I’m not sure how a bunch of councillors will have any more knowledge than they (staff) will,” O’Grady said.
Kennedy retorted by stating council members get together every year to review and discuss a budget containing millions of dollars and go through it with a “fine-toothed comb.” The snow clearing policies however do not get anything similar, and are only properly reviewed, as far as he knew, every 12 years or so.
“We could leave the budget completely up to staff, but we don’t,” Kennedy said. “In some cases we can go through things with a fine-toothed comb, but in other cases it appears we’re less willing … I just think we’re fearful of looking at it and I don’t know why.”
Kennedy clarified that he did not have any doubts about the capabilities of the town’s staff, he just feels there may be some things left unknown within the town’s policies.
“It could be as simple as figuring out, for example, where the plow goes first if there is a second shift in one night,” he said. “We all know the hospital probably has first dibs, and the main roads like Powell Drive, I just think there’s nothing wrong with having a thorough look at it.”
Councillor Danielle Doyle said that even compared to a major city like St. John’s, Carbonear’s snow clearing has received compliments from visitors.
Councillor Ray Noel and Mayor Frank Butt, meanwhile, supported Kennedy’s call for a review, even it encompasses no more than a single meeting.
“I like the transparency. I’m not being critical of the crews and I don’t believe councillor Kennedy is either,” Noel said, adding Carbonear came out of the record-breaking Snowmaggedon in 2020 with little to no problem. “But, let’s have a look. If there’s nothing to be changed, then change nothing. If there’s some good suggestions to come out of it, then we can make some little tweaks.”
CAO Davis said under a normal snowfall, the town’s snow clearing effort takes about three hours.
At the end of the discussion, council agreed to start the process by appointing a special committee. Depending on how its discussions go, the committee may take in more members from council or the public works staff.