WHAT A WALLOP! 0
COLLINGWOOD -It would be understandable if the workers in the Collingwood road maintenance department have a collective case of snow-blindness this week.
They, along with local residents, fought what seemed almost like a losing battle against a persistent snow squall that remained virtually stationary over the town for three or four days and dumping a mountain of the white gold on us in the process.
According to Environment Canada, about a metre of snow was dumped on Collingwood over four days -- a number that was only exacerbated by gusty winds coming off the lake.
Ed Houghton, the town's Executive Director of Public Works, said his staff has been logging some long hours.
"They are working full out and doing the best they can," said Houghton. "We have every piece of equipment on the road and our staff are working the maxi mu m number of hours under the Hours of Work Legislation."
Houghton said the work has been made more difficult by the sheer volume of snow that has left residents leaving their vehicles on the roads for prolonged periods as they battle to keep their driveways clear.
"We are having issues getting down some roads because of cars parked on the roads and that is delaying us getting through our routes," said Houghton Wednesday. "At this point in time we are probably a full five or six hours behind schedule. Sidewalks remain an issue trying to get them complete and not getting blown back in a few hours later."
The widening of First Street is also eating up some additional town resources and will wind up costing more, said Houghton, although he couldn't put a figure on the amount of the increase.
"How would I know at this point?" he said. "We have only had snow since Friday morning. It's not significant but when you have more asphalt surface (lanes) to plow it will cost more. When you have an additional road to plow, it will cost more. When you have an additional sidewalk to plow it will cost more.
"The cost to maintain First Street has gone up because of the additional width," Houghton added. "First Street now has five lanes and as such we have more lanes of traffic and slightly less snow storage. We run two plows in tandem followed directly behind with a sander.
"We can do the entire five lanes with two passes of the plows."
He said it appears the downtown revitalization work on Hurontario Street may not add any extra costs to the snow-removal budget.
"At this point our plan for snow removal for downtown Collingwood is similar to previous years but it is totally dependent on the amount of snow," said Houghton. "Right now there is a great deal of snow coming at us very quickly which will impact our forecasted budgets. Downtown Collingwood is generally cleared four-to-five times per year. We will attempt to ensure that the snow is removed to allow Christmas shoppers easy access to our downtown businesses."
Clearing the sidewalks has been a particular challenge for the town crews, he said, particularly in light of the municipal commitment to its Active Transportation Plan.
Many pedestrians have been forced on to the streets this week because the sidewalks have been impassable.
"I agree that we need to not only talk the active transportation scene but walk it as well," said Houghton. "We try very hard to have the sidewalks in good shape for walking and active transportation but right now it is tough to keep up. I believe that council should look at those trails that might be considered 'main trunk' and look at the potential for plowing them. But that's just my thought."