January 5, 2017 6:06 pm
Updated: January 5, 2017 10:55 pm

Vancouver NPA councillor asks for formal inquiry into City’s handling of snow, salt crisis

WATCH:Once again today, the city of Vancouver's free salt giveaway sparked chaos at fire halls. Jill Bennett has more.

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An NPA city councillor wants more transparency into how the City of Vancouver officials handled clearing city streets from the snow and ice that has accumulated after numerous snowfalls and a prolonged cold snap in December.

Melissa De Genova says she has heard from many frustrated residents since the snow hit the city early last month.

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The City has been slammed by both drivers and pedestrians complaining about the state of the roads and sidewalks. During one of the December snowfalls, many drivers were furious about driving conditions on major arteries that were left unplowed. Freezing temperatures have turned slush and melting snow into sheets of ice in some areas of the city, including multiple sidewalks and bus stops.

READ MORE: Icy sidewalks, bus stops in Vancouver spark outrage; City responds

But the City maintains its response was adequate with crews working around the clock to salt and sand the roads, using 7,000 tonnes of salt in the process.

The City has also ramped up its enforcement for residents who were not clearing their sidewalks, subjecting them to fines and even taking them to court.

“We need to ensure that we are providing essential road-clearing services on our roads and I find it very hypocritical that the City is spending time ticketing small shop owners and homeowners instead of putting those resources on the roads and making sure that we are bringing in all of the salt we possibly can,” De Genova said. “If we can’t keep our own roadways and streets clean, how can we expect residents in Vancouver to do so?”

De Genova says she is hearing from Vancouverties concerned that their property taxes were just increased, in part to help deal with the growing opioid crisis, but they are not getting an adequate level of service for their taxpayer money.

“I don’t think the city has stepped up enough,” De Genova said. “As a liaison to the Persons With Disabilities Advisory Committee and as a former liaison to the Senior Advisory Committee, we are not just talking about people who are slightly inconvenienced or possibly can’t get to work or school. We are talking about people who can’t get to their medical appointments. I can’t imagine how this must be for our first responders – our firefighters, police, paramedics trying to respond to calls down icy hills.”

De Genova says she will raise the issue through either a motion or formal inquiry at the first city council meeting on Jan. 20.

“I am going to be asking City staff if this is costing us more,” she said. “I understand we may be outsourcing the salt and paying a premium price for that. That being said, we certainly have the real estate where we could have certainly stockpiled at least a year or two worth of salt. We have to remember that it is the taxpayers who are paying for this. They are paying the city through their taxes and expect a certain level of service.”

As to Mayor Gregor Robertson, De Genova says he has been noticeably absent so far, but she expects deputies should still be addressing public concerns.

“I know that the citizens of Vancouver are frustrated, they are confused and they are left scratching their heads about why their taxes went up, but their services went down,” she said.

Meanwhile, there is more snow on the way for Vancouver and Fraser Valley tonight and Friday.

The City says it’s ready to handle the new snow and has not run out of road salt, with regular shipments continuing to arrive. The City also reminds that while salt helps to break up ice and snow, it is not a replacement for snow removal.

City officials strongly recommend that in advance of the next anticipated snowfall, residents and businesses:

  • Shovel off any remaining ice or snow that is on the sidewalks or driveways from the Dec. 31 snowfall;
  • Lay salt down on sidewalks and driveways prior to the snowfall. This will help to melt the ice and make it easier to remove.
  • Shovel new snow as soon as possible to prevent build up and melting into an ice crust. While residents have until 10 a.m. until after a snowfall to shovel sidewalks in front of their property, getting out early before the morning commute will help ensure snow isn’t packed down, and will make it easier to remove;
  • Provide help to neighbours who cannot clear their own sidewalks, if you are able;
  • Wear proper winter footwear to guard against slippery sidewalks. Use main roads when possible as they tend to have less snow and ice than residential and side streets;
  • If you choose to drive, ensure your car has winter tires.

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