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Dear Editor,

I write in response to an opinion piece by Sharla Nurse titled Students crossing in your Dec. 17 edition.

Contrary to the opinion expressed, the City of St. John’s has a comprehensive Snow Clearing Plan which includes clearing the most frequently used sidewalks. The plan has policies and service objectives which are updated regularly to reflect changes in public demand, equipment, technology and approved budgets.

On Dec. 6 St. John’s experienced a snow fall of 39 centimetres accompanied by high winds. Crews worked continuously throughout the day and overnight to deal with this major storm. The next morning there were some traffic delays due to slippery patches and narrow streets but schools and businesses were open for business as usual.

To expect sidewalks to be cleared immediately following a storm of this magnitude is unrealistic. The first priority during a storm is to open the major streets for emergency vehicles such as fire and ambulance. Once the storm abates, the crews concentrate on opening the remaining streets which is usually accomplished within 12 hours. As soon as the snow stops, sidewalk plows begin their routes. In addition to clearing sidewalks in the immediate area of schools, seniors' complexes and on some arterial streets, crews clear approximately 100 kilometres of the most heavily travelled sidewalks which are generally located within 1.6 kilometres of schools.

The sidewalks near Memorial University are given high priority due to the high volume of pedestrians. In the case of the Dec. 6 storm, sidewalk clearing in the vicinity of the university started when the storm abated early Monday morning, Dec. 7, and all the major pedestrian routes were completed by Wednesday morning, Dec. 9.

To enhance the sidewalk clearing program, council has allocated additional funding in the 2010 budget for ice control of the sidewalk routes.

The city has a dedicated snow clearing team who take pride in providing the best possible service to the public with the resources available. High annual snowfall, frequent freeze/thaw cycles, high winds and narrow streets make the maintenance of sidewalks in a snow and ice-free condition on a consistent basis an extremely difficult task. The city will spend approximately $14.5 million on snow clearing operations in 2010 and the current Snow Clearing Plan provides a reasonable balance of competing public demands for service.

More information on the City’s sidewalk routes and general snow clearing operations can be found at

Yours sincerely, Paul Mackey,
Deputy City Manager/Director of
Public Works and Parks, City of St. John’s