Snow cleaning still a problem?

Having had the privilege of living in diverse cultures, I was blessed with the opportunity of observing how various languages feature

Having had the privilege of living in diverse cultures, I was blessed with the opportunity of observing how various languages feature some magnificent proverbs, idioms or phrases that distill oceans of wisdom into sentences of a few words that give you enough food for thought to last days.

“Putting your ducks in a row” in English language is not that kind of an idiom, but it is quite practical and straightforward in terms of expressing the intended meaning, which is to “put your priorities in order”. If you would like to stretch it, it may also be used to mean to “act with efficiency” as well.

The context for the use of this idiom in this particular article is, as you may have predicted, the snow (rather ice) removal conversation that has been omnipresent probably in every household over the last three weeks.

The heavy snow fell on Sunday, Nov. 3 and the town crews swiftly cleared most of the snow on a few of the main arteries, like the 53 Avenue, 51 Street and 50 Street.

We have received word that town administration was commended for the quick action that was taken in the downtown core.

In all frankness, the town administration does deserve credit (only) for the work done on Monday Nov. 4, but many town residents, probably a majority, are not of the same opinion.

We know that both Mayor Rick Bonnett and town councillors have received quite a number of phone calls from angry residents, who are also taxpayers demanding as much attention from their local government as was accorded to the business area of the town.

And an examination of the town’s “Snow Removal and Ice Control Policy” which is available on the website of the town (http://www.ponoka.ca/images/Snow%20Clearing%20and%20Ice%20Control%20Policy%20SER-009-005.pdf) shows that the policy, which probably needs some serious review, has not even been properly implemented.

According to the policy in question, streets where the Ponoka Secondary Campus and the Ponoka Elementary School are located are priority areas, but they remained icy, slippery and quite dangerous to drive on for more than two weeks. The same goes for the Riverside area, where the hill must have received a priority in terms of ice control action, but was not visited until the second half of last week.

Town’s policy also has the following interesting wording in one certain provision that goes “When it is deemed necessary to clear snow from Residential Areas, they will be cleared on a rotational basis,” meaning that if you are living in a residential area, you are at the mercy of the assessment of the Director of Operations and Property Services.

What about the provision in the policy which states: “Other than for emergency situations, snow clearing operations will be suspended at temperatures colder than -40 C”?

Records show that we have not been even below -20 during daytime over the last three weeks, but we haven’t seen town equipment doing a lot of cleaning, either.

I am sure, there are probably a lot of arguments or reasons that town officials could mention to justify what has been an unpleasant two weeks for many residents in the community.

Such arguments may seem justifiable to those who bring them up, but their validity should be debated for the fundamental reason that the town administration is paid for by the taxpayer to receive adequate and satisfactory services.

Governments of all levels, federal or provincial or municipal, are responsible to the people who both elect them and employ them with their taxes; they are elected or appointed to deliver the services to the public and the positions of responsibility are not places where officials in charge can learn by trial and error. Again, governments of all levels should ensure continuity and rely on the institutional memory to serve their constituents.

Ponoka was incorporated in 1905, which means it has had an administration for more than a century (enough time to put the ducks in order). And snow is not something that falls on Ponoka every few years.

One wonders how much more time it will take a town with so many resources to be able to put the snow clearing problems behind as we approach the year 2014. This may make a good discussion point for a town hall meeting.