Public schools in Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows were closed last summer due to snow. (THE NEWS/files)

Pitt Meadows puts more into snow removal

Maple Ridge bracing for another snowy winter

The main routes of Pitt Meadows are going to see more snow removal this year, after council approved an estimated $40,000 in new spending to ensure the streets and sidewalks are clear.

Last year’s icy, snowy sidewalks in the city brought the issue to the fore.

“We’ve resourced a higher level of service for snow removal,” said Mayor John Becker. “It may be that climate change is going to provide us with longer and more severe snow events.”

Forrest Smith, director of engineering and operations, said the 2016-17 winter was unique in that there were multiple storm events and sustained cold weather, and that included a large snow event on New Year’s Eve, when crews were off.

The old policy limited the city’s snow removal response in the evenings and on weekends, and he said snow and ice accumulations on sidewalks led to “public confusion” about city policy.

Public feedback indicated sidewalk and bus stops on Harris and Hammond roads need to be higher priority, and there needs to be more hours of evening and weekend snow clearing, and that will happen with the new policy.

Coun. Mike Stark said the change was long overdue, and noted that priority routes will be maintained 24 hours a day.

Last year, access was challenged for a sustained period of time, particularly for elderly people in the downtown area.

Smith noted there was also interest in a community Snow Angel program, which will help elderly residents get their sidewalks cleared by neighbours.

“It hooks people who are able bodied with people who are less so,” explained Becker.

He said the Snow Angel program will likely be administered by staff both in hard copy at city hall and via the city website.

The cost for the additional snow removal will bring to the total budget to an estimated $100,000 per year, based on four snow events lasting 48 hours.

“The thing with an average snow year is, you never see it,” said Becker.

If there are leftover funds, they will carry over to be used in years when more snow removal is necessary.

The new policy will be in effect for a one-year trial period, then costs reviewed in budgeting.

Coun. Bill Dingwall recalled seeing a person in a wheelchair struggling on a sidewalk covered in ice and snow last winter.

“This is part of doing business, and we need to fund it appropriately,” he said.

Maple Ridge is going to put more focus on having residents remove snow from the sidewalks in front of their properties.

Fred Armstrong, city communications manager, said sidewalks were in bad shape last winter because of the numerous storms, with cold snaps in between.

“One of the big issues last year was a lot of people just decided not to shovel sidewalks,” he said. “We had some pretty significant buildups on sidewalks.”

A weather service the city subscribes to has forecast a similar winter coming up, with four or five snow events. The city operations team met in November with emergency responders to plan snow removal on key routes, he said.

The city budget for snow removal last year was $288,000.

As far as clearing sidewalks, the city wants to mobilize the public.

Armstrong said healthy communities have good neighbour relationships, where people will shovel the walk next door if their neighbour is on vacation.

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Mary Jane Duke, with the City of Maple Ridge, shovels snow from the walkways in Memorial Peace Park last year. (THE NEWS/files)

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