Published on January 10, 2014
A snowblower works to clear St. John's streets of snow Thursday. — Photo by Joe Gibboons/The Telegram
Published on January 09, 2014
City of St. John’s employee Terry Bennett, president of CUPE Local 569, which represents the capital city outside workers, at the city depot on Blackler Avenue Thursday afternoon just prior to returning to snowclearing duties in the city’s downtown core.
— Photo by Joe Gibbons/The Telegram
People fed up with the mess already
For the past 37 years, Terry Bennett has heard every form of swear word angry residents and motorists could muster up to hurl at him.
This year is no different for the president of CUPE Local 569, with the City of St. John’s outside workers.
“We’ve heard it all,” he told The Telegram Thursday during a break from snowclearing operations.
“I suppose you get used to it,” said Bennett, citing an incident on Bannerman Road Wednesday night and into Thursday morning as an example.
He said workers were trying to widen the streets and one driver, instead of going around the operations, followed the crew.
“He was very belligerent with us, using the F word and the C word, and I said, ‘Sir, if you got comments to make, then call the city at 311.’ He said, ‘That’s no effing good. I already called that place. All ye can go F yourselves,’” Bennett recalled.
Fortunately, he said, that motorist is the exception rather than the rule. Most people are courteous and try to avoid areas where crews are working, Bennett said, though there’s always a percentage of people who don’t care.
He said he understands these are trying times — his workers are going flat-out 24 hours a day, with 12-hour shifts, and some employees are working 16-hour to 18-hour shifts.
“But it’s our jobs, so we turn a blind eye. We got to clear the roads and blow the snow back and dump the snow. We’re just asking for a bit of respect and for people to stay away from where we are working, for their safety and ours,” he said.
Deputy city manager of public works Paul Mackey says it’s early in the year and people are already out of patience.
He said it’s going to be a long winter and drivers and residents should calm down and let workers do their jobs.
“There’s no doubt people get a bit upset at times, and we’re finding lately, people are very impatient, particularly drivers,” he said.
“We put up signs and barricades to keep the traffic away for good reason — lots of heavy equipment going ahead and backing up, and it’s not safe for people or vehicles to be in there.”
At times, Mackey said, crews physically have to block roads with trucks because people ignore the signs and warning lights.
He said a recent example involved a driver who went around work crews and ended up in a precarious position.
“We had an incident overnight where an SUV went through and ended up in a snowbank we had in the middle of the street. We were removing the snow, he ended up stuck in it and was looking for us to tow him out, which we declined. So that’s the kind of thing we’re dealing with. It’s an ongoing battle,” Mackey said.
Regarding snowclearing and removal, he said given the amount that has fallen in such a short time, the city is having to rent trucks to supplement its own fleet and find dumping areas to make the operation more efficient.
Mackey said renting dump trucks from the construction industry is not a common practice, but the city has done it in the past.
“We normally do it when we get severe snow accumulation, not every year. I don’t think we did last year or the year before, but some years we have had them for several weeks. It all depends on the snow and how much work we have to do,” he said, adding there are several trucks available that the city hopes to have in operation in the next day or so.
With respect to dumping, Mackey said while St. John’s harbour is the primary dump site, different locations are being looked at to clear some of the snow off the roads.
“We do use Robin Hood Bay, but distance is longer, so that’s not a preferred location,” he said.
“We’re looking at Wishingwell Park parking lot as a dumpsite for that area of town. With the amount of snow around we have to look for all the sites we can find because space is at a premium and haul distance affects the efficiency of the operation. The further you got to haul, the less work you get done and the more expensive it is,” Mackey said.
He said it’s a bit of a challenge to get everything done at once and crews are continuing to clear out fire hydrants — which the city also rents equipment for because it doesn’t have enough of its own.
Sidewalk clearing is taking a backseat for the time being, according to the city’s website, www.stjohns.ca: “due to ongoing street and snowclearing and removal operations, sidewalk clearing in designated areas, including school zones, is delayed. With a record amount of snow, 24/7 snow removal operations must continue to focus on ensuring access throughout the city for emergency vehicles. Street widening and downtown snow removal from congested streets remains a priority at this time.”
In the meantime, Bennett reminds the public that the no-parking ban is in effect and people can help city crews by getting their cars off the roads.
“I just encourage people to check the snow line (576-7669), and get your car in a safe area so we’ll be able to remove snow from the street,” he said.
“A lot of people are co-operative and we do get compliments. We’ve noticed people shovelling out fire hydrants, but the big thing to get out there is safety. If you see snow blowing or snow removal in effect, go the other way because it will make our job better, easier and safer,” said Bennett.
There are 12 streets listed on the snow line for clearing overnight. The city’s website advises motorists that snow removal and/or street widening operations are in effect beginning 12:30 a.m. to 7:30 a.m.
Downtown snow removal daily street list:
1. Circular Road, from Monkstown Road to Bonaventure Avenue
2. Fleming Street, from Bonaventure Avenue to Monkstown Road
3. Hayward Avenue
4. Catherine Street
5. Barnes Road
6. Barnes Place
7. Coleman Place
8. Donnelly’s Lane
9. Patrick Street
10. Springdale Street
11. Albro Lane
12. Convent Square