‘That’s too bad. That’s your problem’

Woman can’t get into fire-damaged home after city crews dump mountain of snow on property

Daniel MacEachern dmaceachern@thetelegram.com
Published on January 8, 2014
A mountain of snow blocks access to Lori Clarke’s home on Durham Place. Clarke and her daughter were forced from their home by a fire Dec. 22. Since then, city crews piled snow in front of the home, preventing her from getting back into her home. — Photo by Joe Gibbons/The Telegram

A St. John’s woman is upset city snowclearing crews dumped so much snow on her front yard and driveway that she can’t get into her house.

Lori Clarke and her five-year-old daughter have been staying at Leaside Manor since fire damaged the interior of her Durham Place house Dec. 22, but she has been returning to the house to salvage anything she can from inside.

“We have been back and forth,” she said. “Someone had shovelled out a path so we could go back and forth to the house.”

Clarke discovered Sunday evening that a massive snowbank had been deposited in her front yard and driveway after the weekend’s heavy snowfall, making it impossible to get into the house on a cul-de-sac at the end of the street.

“A bunch of the neighbours were gathered outside talking about it,” she said.

“A few of them had offered to help, but there’s nothing they can do. … It’s just way too much snow.”

Clarke said she assumed city crews figured the house is currently unoccupied, though how they knew she’s not sure, as the fire damage isn’t apparent from the outside. She called the city’s 311 line Monday morning and was told by the woman who answered the phone the city would send a truck to investigate.

“I said, ‘It really needs to be cleared,’ and she said they would investigate and decide that,” she said. That evening, after the snow was left, she called back and was told the city had already investigated and determined similar snow piles are left on many properties.

“I said, ‘How in the world am I going to clear that?’ And she said, ‘That’s too bad. That’s your problem,’” said Clarke. “She said, ‘You’ll have to get a private contractor to do it. You’ll have to hire one.’ … She was absolutely rude and condescending.”

Clarke’s father wound up calling the mayor’s office, which Clarke said resulted in a partial clearing, but her house is still inaccessible barring hours of work with a shovel.

Paul Mackey, the city’s director of public works, said Tuesday evening that crews will often deposit snow on properties where driveways haven’t been cleared in some time.

“Our operators go along, and if they see evidence of a driveway, they don’t stack any snow,” he said. “The normal windrow from the plow would come off like it would in anybody’s driveway, but we don’t push snow up if there’s a driveway or a walkway or anything like that.”

Mackey said he understood the house has been empty for a while. “In a case like that, we would usually go back, and if it’s reasonable and it’s something we overlooked and accidentally put it in there, we would remove at least some of the major amount that was pushed in.”

Mackey said it can be tricky to remove all of the snow for fear of causing damage to the property. “But we would probably pull back at least the excess on the top and give the owner a break,” he said. “If it was a situation where it wasn’t their fault, we would try to give them a break. If it were the case where the driveway just hasn’t been used all winter because somebody wasn’t shovelling it and they were still living there, we wouldn’t respond to that kind of a complaint because that type of driveway wouldn’t be obvious. It’s up to the owner to make it obvious to us.”

Mackey said Clarke’s case sounds like a “hardship situation.”

“It’s quite likely we would remove some of that snow, yes,” he said. “I haven’t got all the details of it yet, but on the surface of it, it certainly seems like a situation where we would go back and remove the excess snow from the property, yes.”

dmaceachern@thetelegram.com

Twitter: @DanMacEachern