More than 100 centimetres of snow has fallen in the Ponoka so far this season; the annual average is 120.
An embattled public works crew of five staff has spent the last two months dealing with heavier than normal snowfall. Contractors have had to be hired to help haul the snow and last Saturday, four staffers plus contractors worked through the day to try and keep up.
Jerry-Lee Reynolds, seasonal equipment operator for the Town of Ponoka feels despite the challenges, the crew are doing their best to get the job done. She worked on Saturday because of the amount of the white stuff on the roads. “We needed to move the snow.”
“The last two months we’ve been doing nothing but move snow,” added Rod Carrick, public works foreman.
While much of their time has been spent on public roads, Carrick said staff must still find a way to manage the Forest Home Cemetery, the airport and the sidewalks and paths.
Dave McPhee, director of operations and property services, said crews are trying to find the balance between roadway safety and other areas such as pathways. However, their first priority is to clear the roads and walking routes so kids can get to schools.
He praised the team for working together as they have a plan of action for each day. McPhee has been working to try and get information out to the public; he posts once a week on the town’s website: www.ponoka.ca where staff are going next.
Mayor Rick Bonnett praised the crew’s recent efforts.
“They weren’t asked to work. They actually said, ‘You know what, we’ve gotta get things going here. If we get another snowstorm, we’re going to be so far behind,’” said Bonnett.
“So they’ve taken the bull by the horns and we’ve given them that empowerment,” he added.
With all the snow clearing, no parking signs have been posted on streets to allow crews a clear lane to work. Sometimes those signs are not obeyed and Bonnett wonders if there is a way to solve the issue so snow can be cleared faster.
He wants to seek feedback from residents next season on how the town should deal with parked vehicles on snow clearing streets. Some of the issues residents have at these times are:
• They do not enjoy getting towed
• They do not enjoy getting their vehicle snowed while a grader pushes snow aside
• They do not want to wait for snow removal vehicles to clear the roads
It appears residents have taken to yelling at town staff.
“The employees don’t even feel like going around town sometimes because of the retribution…People are yelling and screaming,” explained Bonnett. “They’re (employees) doing their best but Mother Nature’s not co-operating either.”
He asks that residents be patient while crews work on a street and if possible, use another road to get to a destination. Doing this will help speed up the process if vehicles are not waiting behind equipment.
“We’re not talking huge city blocks here,” said Bonnett.