Mayor’s corner: This job is never boring, especially in snow-clearing season

Tyler Warman
Mayor of Slave Lake

I can say without a doubt that I’m lucky to have a job that is never boring. As your Mayor, one of the best parts is the diversity of the topics that I get to deal with on a day-to-day basis.
Lately it doesn’t seem that holds true though. It seems one topic has been dominating my time, and council’s time, and that is snow.
It comes every year, and it’s a naturally reoccurring phenomenon. So I want to take a moment of your time to shed some light on the snow removal process in the Town, and hopefully clear up some answers that have been making the rounds on social media.
We have a fantastic operations crew, who have been making excellent progress on street snow removal over the last two weeks. Our crews have been working aggressively on clearing snow from roadways, based on priority route mapping system, which can be found on our website at https://ab-slavelake.civicplus.com/DocumentCenter/Home/View/1918.
We start with our emergency routes first, (roads around the Hospital, and 7th Street N.E to the airport), then we move onto our arterial roads (Caribou Trail, Main Street, 6th Ave N.E, 6th Ave S.E, 6th Ave S.W, and 6th Ave N.W, but not always in that order) and we keep working to roads that are more commonly used (12th Street S.E, 8th Street S.W), these roads are highlighted in yellow on the map the above link leads to.
After these are finished our crews go into the residential roads and begin clearing snow. Each year we begin in different quadrants of town. This year we began in the North West. Our crews clear snow in a clockwise motion, moving to the North East, then South East, and finishing up in the South West.
This process changes every time we have a large snow fall. The second time we started in the NE, and moved clockwise around the community. For the snowfall after that we would start in the SE, and then after that we would start in the SW. This is to give all quadrants a chance to have their residential roads cleared first.
To know where and what our crews are doing, last year we started forecasting our snow removal process. It’s updated every Friday before 4:30 p.m. This way you can see where we anticipate our crews to be the following week. And you can move your vehicle from the road to ensure a proper snow removal process along your street. It can be found here https://ab-slavelake.civicplus.com/395/Snow-Removal-Forecast.
We have over 40 kms of roads in the Town, and it often takes us about two weeks to get the roads cleared. Snow removal in residential areas has been going reasonably well with the five operators we have working on it.
The first major snow falls of the season it has taken our crew approximately half that time to clear all residential roads.
One area that we, as a community, have been struggling with over the last two weeks is sidewalk snow removal. Our current sidewalk snow removal policy states, ‘24 hours after a snowfall, snow needs to be removed from sidewalks.’
One question that is asked a lot if the snow is plowed to your side of the street, and you have a sidewalk, do you need to remove snow from the sidewalk. Only property owners who have sidewalks that the snow is not pushed to must keep them clear.
There are approximately 6,500 residents in this town; divide that by the number of sidewalks that have to be cleared, and it would take literally a few minutes per resident to clear the sidewalks that need to be cleared.
Something else to note is we have made changes to the designated sidewalks that were deemed important for pedestrian movement.
The Town used to clean many of these in front of homeowners houses, and it became abundantly clear it wasn’t fair for the other residents that we were not clearing sidewalks for. So earlier this year council adopted a new designated sidewalk policy, and it reduced the number of designated sidewalks the town clears. This information was communicated on our website, via social media, in the newspaper, and on the radio.
This snow season we have had two major snow falls, and what has been the most frustrating part so far this season is some people have not had the time or energy to pick-up a shovel and do their part, and as such we have some safety concerns around town.
We have two peace officers in Slave Lake, and they have been overwhelmed by the number of complaints from businesses and landowners who have an expectation that people pitch in and clean their sidewalks.
Dealing with the high number of complaints has been overwhelming, so in an effort to streamline this process, we developed a ‘door knocker’ that our enforcement staff has begun hanging on doors of properties.
The door knocker is not a fine but a reminder to homeowners that the sidewalk needs to be cleared, or a fine of $500 could end up on your door step. Along with a fine, if you don’t comply, we may send a contractor out to your property and remove snow from your sidewalks, and then the Town would send you the bill.
Now we know that some residents have some mobility limitations, and some people need help.
For seniors, the town has a fantastic program to help with snow removal. Seniors, or family members of seniors, looking to have snow removed from their property and sidewalks can contact 780-849-8031, and speak with our Seniors Coordinator. The Town has been asking for volunteers over the last few months to help with snow removal for seniors, and residents have taken up the call and have volunteered their time and energy to help those in need.
Our volunteers are standing by to help out so please feel free to call.
In the last two weeks, we have heard stories of neighbour helping out neighbour, friends helping out friends, complete strangers removing snow from driveways and sidewalks, and this is truly the best of Slave Lake. We all pitch in when things look tough and help each other out. I’ll admit that I often don’t like being told what to do, and I’m assuming you are the same, but I’m hoping that we come together as a community for the common good. And maybe remember that living in Northern Alberta living we have to expect some snow!
Lastly with less than 24 days to Christmas, there are more important things to be focusing on, and maybe this Christmas season help out your neighbour, your family member, or a complete stranger and clear a sidewalk or two.

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