Police, municipal works department still on the job no matter the weather

Nancy MacPhee
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SUMMERSIDE — The clear, blue skies Tuesday may have been the calm before the storm for most Islanders, but not Greg Gaudet.

Bob Irving works on one of the City of Summerside’s snowplows Tuesday afternoon in preparation for the blizzard that was forecast to hit the province Wednesday.

Gaudet, Summerside’s director of municipal services, and his staff were busy much of the day and into the evening preparing for what was expected to be a very busy and tiring Wednesday in light of the forecast blizzard.

It’s Gaudet’s department that looks after clearing city streets and sidewalks of snow, salting roads and ensuring sidewalks are passable.

To do that, equipment must be in top working order, fuelled and ready to go.

“The preparations are to mainly make sure all the snow-removal, plowing, sidewalk- blowers are maintained and ready to go for any maintenance required,” said Gaudet. “They are gone over and checked over to make sure that everything is fine so when we go to use it during a storm event it is available and not broken down.”

That’s exactly what was taking place at the municipal garage on Ottawa Street, where equipment sat idle as the department’s employees gave each piece the once over prior to the first snowflake falling.

The city, while it has its own equipment, does contract out some of snow removal.

“There are four plows that are contracted out for about half the city. The downtown, the tighter area of the city where there is a lot more tighter areas we have six plow vehicles – three blowers and three sidewalk machines as well that clear and two salting trucks,” explained Gaudet. “Apart from the six plows, we have two backhoes and one other loader that does parking lots in the City of Summerside for municipal operations.”

The city has seen its fair share of snow so far this winter, with more than 100 centimetres in December and 56 cm already this month.

All that snow has kept municipal services workers on their toes.

“On our website (www.city.summerside.pe.ca) we have what our service policy is for snow removal in the City of Summerside. Depending on the amount snow that falls it will dictate the amount of time it takes to deal with it,” said Gaudet. “Usually less than 20 cm of snow there is a four-and-a-half-hour time frame where we clear the roads and about a 10-hour time frame on sidewalks.

“That’s after the last snowflake has fallen for the storm event. That’s the service levels we have been able to maintain and make sure that the public gets that service by maintaining log sheets on all the equipment. We make sure we try to maintain that standard throughout.”

Sometimes there are issues, such as a breakdown with a piece of equipment, that can slow things down and schedules have to be readjusted.

But, on average, said Gaudet, plows move through the city within four to five hours.

“If it is larger than 20 cm that can take, obviously, a longer time to deal with.”

When too much snow is down, the snow that is removed has to be moved, mostly to a site on MacKenzie Drive.

For the city’s police department, there’s no such thing as a storm day.

Deemed an essential service, the department must be manned and officers on duty.

“There are no real changes. We have the same staff on,” said Deputy Chief Sinclair Walker. “We’re an essential service. We have to have our people here.”

When everyone else is told by police to stay off the roads, police throughout the city and the province still have to respond to calls and emergencies.

“A lot of times we just answer calls,” said Walker. “A lot of times we can’t get out on the street. There is usually a plow available to the fire department.”

The city’s fire department also has a crew on call at the fire hall during storms and Island EMS has staff on duty.

That’s why, said both Gaudet and Walker, for Islanders to heed warnings to stay indoors and off roads during a storm unless it is an absolute emergency.

That, along with residents not abiding with the winter parking ban, is one of the biggest frustrations for Gaudet and his staff.

“We can’t restrict people from travelling but if it is so bad it is dangerous to them don’t go out,” he added. “Our parking ban is in effect for a reason so that our plows do not have to go back and do more touch-up work for moving around parked cars or even cars that are stuck on the road.”

And, if conditions are bad enough, which, according to Environment Canada’s forecast, they could be on Wednesday, plows could be called off city streets.

“If our own plow operators don’t feel safe in doing the travelling without being able to see cars and people walking along the street plows are called off the streets,” said Gaudet. “The second one is if the province hauls their plows off the road usually we’ll follow suit and do the same. At the same time, we do maintain staff and resources to react to 911 emergencies.”



Organizations: Environment Canada

Geographic location: Summerside, Ottawa Street

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Recent comments

  • joy macausland
    January 22, 2014 - 06:42

    I think the plow operators should. come to Calgary. and show them how its done. they. have no clue out here if they had to deal with the amounts. we get back there they would have a heart attack i miss back over a month and side walks still not all cleaned off you guys are stars in my eyes