Southlands section forgotten by snowclearing crews: mayor

Daniel MacEachern dmaceachern@thetelegram.com
Published on April 3, 2014
A City of St. John’s heavy equipment operator clears snow from the Ironwood Place cul-de-sac off of Cheeseman Drive in Southlands Wednesday morning. The city received numerous complaints from residents in Southlands about a lack of snowclearing by city crews.
— Photo by Joe Gibbons/The Telegram

Southlands was Snowlands Wednesday morning, and St. John’s Mayor Dennis O’Keefe apologized to residents forgotten by snowplow crews.

“The complaints are quite legitimate, and we’ll get down to what actually happened when the shift comes back on. They’re on rest now,” O’Keefe said Wednesday afternoon, adding four streets in Southlands — Sumac Street, Douglas Street, Sitka Street and Kenai Crescent — were missed by the city’s snowplow crews following this week’s heavy snowfall.

Residents who spoke to The Telegram complained of untouched streets and stuck vehicles, making the morning commute a mess.

“Essentially, the equipment was in the area, as it was right across town, and somehow that four-street block got missed, and we have to find out why,” said O’Keefe.

O’Keefe said as soon as the mistake was discovered, Paul Mackey, the city’s deputy manager of public works, dispatched equipment to clear the streets Wednesday morning.

“I apologize for the fact that it did get missed,” said O’Keefe, adding that “Mother Nature took a 40-centimetre slap at us” and he hopes that’s the season’s last heavy snowfall. “But you never know. I’ve had slaps like that in the past on May 24 and a little bit later, but hopefully this is the end of it. All our routes are covered. All our equipment is out. The teams, the shifts, are on duty with the appropriate overtime, so everything is fully covered.”

The mayor said crews on Wednesday were concentrating on high-drift areas, and crews over­night would focus on the downtown core of St. John’s, including residential areas.

“If this is our last smack — and I know how frustrated people are, we all are, with the length and volume of snow — if this is the last of it, and we’re not into a ‘sprinter,’ as some people are referring to it, and I hope that is not the case, then over the next few days, everything should get pretty well cleared up speedily. Sidewalks are being tackled today too.”

O’Keefe said 30 employees who had been reassigned to other duties last month — part of the city’s annual overall paring-down of snowclearing staff, a heavily criticized move this year that reduced the workforce by 130 people — have been brought back to snowclearing operations.

Mackey declined to be interviewed by The Telegram, directing questions to the city’s communications department.

dmaceachern@thetelegram.com

Twitter: @TelegramDaniel