Clear­ing the snow (and the air)

The Prince George Citizen - - Opinion - — Edi­tor-in-chief Neil God­bout

“We can al­ways do bet­ter.” That’s the clos­est the City of Prince Ge­orge will come to ad­mit­ting the snow re­moval ef­fort af­ter the storm of Dec. 28/29 dumped 35 cm on the city was less than ad­e­quate. That state­ment comes near the end of a five-and-a-half page re­sponse from the City of Prince Ge­orge to The Cit­i­zen’s re­quest for more in­for­ma­tion on the snow re­moval ef­fort in the storm’s af­ter­math.

That per­for­mance is much dif­fer­ent from how fast and ef­fec­tive city crews jumped on the snow that fell Satur­day night and Tues­day overnight.

Yes, they were deal­ing with far less than 35 cm and the colder tem­per­a­tures made for light and fluffy white stuff, as op­posed to the light rain that fell on top of that thick, heavy snow for sev­eral hours on the af­ter­noon of Dec. 29, but credit must be given where credit is due.

Yet go­ing through the city’s more de­tailed writ­ten de­scrip­tion about the Dec. 28/29 snow re­moval ef­fort was as frus­trat­ing as it was driv­ing on ma­jor city streets on Dec. 30 and 31. For ex­am­ple, on Dec. 29, the city in­formed The Cit­i­zen that crews cleared pri­or­ity routes “in the red, green blue, yel­low and or­ange zones.” Those are all five garbage zones in the city, so that still pro­vides no in­for­ma­tion of which pri­or­ity routes were cleared first.

To be fair, the doc­u­ment does go on to name spe­cific pri­or­ity streets and ar­eas cleared each day from Dec. 29 through Jan. 5 but there are huge gaps. At some point, River Road, Cran­brook Hill, Foothills Boule­vard and Univer­sity Way – to name just four im­por­tant Pri­or­ity 1 road­ways – were all cleared af­ter the storm but there is no men­tion of when they were com­pleted.

“Given the com­mit­ment we made to get back to you to­day, this is the best that could be as­sem­bled and pro­vided in the time since the main snow event con­cluded,” city man­ager Kath­leen Soltis wrote in her email to The Cit­i­zen. “I hope it pro­vides much of the in­for­ma­tion you were seek­ing.”

While not com­plete, the in­for­ma­tion pro­vided does con­firm what was ob­vi­ous to any­one who drove on city streets at any time dur­ing the last three days of 2018. The City of Prince Ge­orge came nowhere near to meet­ing its own tar­gets of clear­ing all Pri­or­ity 1 and 2 streets in the 48 hours af­ter more than 7.5 cm of snow falls and clear­ing all other streets in 72 hours af­ter that if more than 12 cm of snow falls.

The snow job from the city just made mat­ters worse.

In­stead of just ad­mit­ting city crews were way be­hind due to both the amount of snow and the heavy wet­ness of it, the city pumped out re­leases on its web­site and its so­cial me­dia chan­nels that made it sound as if ev­ery­thing was go­ing great.

Dec. 28 morn­ing: “Snow and ice con­trol crews in full op­er­a­tion due to snow storm.”

Dec. 28 af­ter­noon: “Snow clear­ing to con­tinue through the week­end.”

Dec. 29 morn­ing: “City crews con­tin­u­ing to clear snow fol­low­ing 35 cm snow­fall.”

Each re­lease ba­si­cally stated that city staff were work­ing hard and that streets were be­ing cleared in pri­or­ity or­der.

To be blunt, that’s use­less in­for­ma­tion. That would be the equiv­a­lent of Drive BC send­ing out re­leases say­ing “pro­vin­cial con­trac­tors clear­ing high­ways” with lit­tle other in­for­ma­tion ex­cept how much snow fell and the num­ber of plows and graders out on the high­ways clear­ing it up.

In con­trast, Drive BC pro­vides use­ful, re­al­time in­for­ma­tion about the road con­di­tions driv­ers will face, em­pow­er­ing in­di­vid­u­als to plan their day, make re­spon­si­ble choices and take bet­ter care of them­selves and oth­ers.

Pro­vid­ing city res­i­dents with use­ful in­for­ma­tion on snow re­moval ef­forts, par­tic­u­larly af­ter a ma­jor storm, shouldn’t be that hard be­cause the in­for­ma­tion al­ready ex­ists and sim­ply needs to be dis­persed in both a timely and hon­est man­ner.

There is no shame in say­ing driv­ing con­di­tions are ter­ri­ble and urg­ing res­i­dents to stay off city streets for non-es­sen­tial travel while snow re­moval crews work to clean up the mess. From a safety stand­point, that’s the re­spon­si­ble thing to do.

Like­wise, there is no shame in say­ing snow re­moval crews are be­hind sched­ule. That’s sim­ply man­ag­ing ex­pec­ta­tions.

City su­per­vi­sors and dis­patch­ers know where their op­er­a­tors are, which streets they’re do­ing and which streets they will be do­ing next.

There was a time when the city would send out a list of streets sched­uled for snow re­moval in the next 12 hours to lo­cal ra­dio sta­tions. It gave both the morn­ing drive hosts and the late-night DJs im­por­tant and use­ful in­for­ma­tion to share with lis­ten­ers. In to­day’s world, that in­for­ma­tion could be shared with all news me­dia out­lets, as well as on the city’s own web­site and so­cial me­dia chan­nels.

The snow and the air would be cleared at the same time.

That’s one way the city could be bet­ter for when the next snow­storm slams the city with more than a foot of snow at once.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Canada

© PressReader. All rights reserved.