Saint John — In the aftermath of yet another wintery blast, Saint John City Council held an emergency meeting to deal with their winter management plan, which was not actually designed to handle winter-like conditions. “When we originally created the winter management system, we assumed we wouldn’t have snow because of global warming,” Mayor Mel Norton told councillors. “A winter like Florida has is the only way we could promise to make streets accessible within 12 hours of a storm.”
Unfortunately for local citizens, Mother Nature has not cooperated with the city’s approach to snow removal.
“We now have 2 broad categories for street-plowing priorities instead of 4,” Norton told councillors at last night’s emergency session. “Priority 1 and Priority 5.”
Norton explained the new winter management plan as he pointed toward an enlarged map of the city. “All Priority 1 streets will be bare pavement with plows throwing up sparks within 1 day of a winter storm, and Priority 5 will be looked at within 5 days.” The map distributed to councillors listed the Priority 1 areas as the southern peninsula, streets with Irving convenience stores and other select routes.
While some councillors voiced concerned over the large swathes of the city that were marked as Priority 5, Norton defended the new plan. “Of course the road to the hospital is critical! But so are the roads to the malls and call centres and the Uptown heritage properties. They are the backbone of our economy and we have to make sure we can keep them open.”
As for residents that live on Priority 5 streets, which include virtually all of the East Side, North End and lower West Side, the city has vowed to have those streets plowed and barely passable — but not salted and sanded — within 5 days of a snowstorm. “We have 7 principles for our winter management plan, but citizens often forget that the No. 1 principle is that property owners and others have obligations as well.”
Coun. Greg Norton, the mayor’s brother, cited the city’s stance on winter management as a deciding factor for the creation of the new plan. “The community as a whole and individual citizens need to appreciate the realities of winter conditions. It’s all about shared responsibility.”
Mayor Norton listed the Saint John Airport as one entity that has proactively taken responsibility for their own snow-removal services. “As I was sitting in the Irving jet drinking de-alcoholized Champagne, I noticed how clean the runways were out there. Saint John citizens in Priority 5 areas should look at the airport as a glowing example of how they can shovel their own sidewalks and streets until a plow arrives the following week.”
Coun. Ray Strowbridge, whose entire ward has been labelled Priority 5, isn’t happy with the new winter management plan. “I’ve received emails as early as this morning that people still haven’t seen a plow from the last storm that was several days ago,” he said. Strowbridge disagrees with the city’s plan to not remove snow from Priority 5 areas for up to a week after a storm. “Those streets need to be plowed at least once in the 24 hours after storm so that residents can get through. How else are they going to get to their call-centre jobs?”