Have you enjoyed driving around this municipality over the past week or so? I didn't think so, neither have I – our roads have been a mess, navigating side streets has been an exercise in frustration, and the municipality should be embarrassed.
As a rule I tend to not get overly worked up about things like this. In fact it's a legitimate criticism levelled at me by my detractors that I can at times be soft on issues such as this. It's a criticism that I accept because it is my nature to try to rationalize situations. I will consider that we live in a snow belt so we can't expect our roads to be perfect at all times of day during the winter months; I will consider whether public safety was at risk, and so on. So I have a longer fuse than many regarding issues such as this but we all have our breaking points, and for me, what we've witnessed on our roads over the past two weeks has been that breaking point.
Just a month ago in my weekly Rants & Raves column in our print paper I offered a tip of the hat to our roads crew when I wrote, “Winter weather has arrived over the past week, and our municipality has been blanketed with several centimetres of snow – thankfully our roads have been in good condition for the most part to start off the season. After the weekend snowfall I took a drive around the municipality from the downtown core out into the rural areas, and all of the roads I found myself on were well cleared which made driving easy. I'm sure that over the next few months there will be some complaints, there always are, so I thought I would give a shout out to Meaford's roads crews early before compliments and appreciation are drowned out by complaints from frustrated motorists.”
So much for early success.
There's no question we've been pummelled with snow since the days leading up to Christmas. The falling snow has seemed to have no end, and it has certainly been significantly more snow than what we've seen in recent years. As my personal frustrations began to rise I decided that to be fair I should venture out to some other municipalities to see how their roads were holding up. I took a drive to Wasaga Beach where the roads, including side roads, were in fine shape, though to be fair they appeared to have received about half the amount of snow that we've received here in Meaford. So on Sunday I drove in the opposite direction and I paid a visit to the Southampton area, where they had received as much if not more snow than we've had here, and while the roads weren't fantastic, they had an edge on our Meaford roads – there seemed to be much less snow packed down on the pavement, the surfaces were smoother, and intersections were tidy and easy to navigate. Subjective, I agree, but those were my observations.
Returning to Meaford I found myself longing for the roads I had encountered in other areas.
By Monday the frigid temperatures that had been forcing our home heating systems to work overtime increased significantly and a melt began, which shifted Meaford's roads from frustrating to barely navigable and intolerable. There was so much snow packed down on our roads that as the temperatures began to rise, motorists were faced with a soupy mess. Vehicles were becoming stuck on level roads, intersections were a nightmare, and motorists were rightfully fuming, many taking to social media to vent their frustrations – many using much spicier language than I typically use on this page.
By Tuesday morning many of our roads had been plowed down to the pavement, but residents had another cause for frustration as the ends of their driveways now featured small mountains of heavy frozen ice. Those who contacted the municipality to complain likely received a response along the lines of, “The warmer temperatures are causing the snow packed snow to loosen, and therefore has caused a considerable amount of snow and ice windrows in driveways.” At least that's part of a response that one person received and forwarded to me, and while it's true that the warmer temperatures resulted in those heavy ice mounds at the ends of our driveways, I would suggest that if the roads had been plowed more often and closer to the pavement in the two weeks prior, there would have been much less to turn into a soupy mess, and far smaller ice mounds at the ends of residents' driveways.
Meaford's treasurer, who pulls double duty as the top dog in the roads department, has made much of his achievement of virtually eliminating overtime logged by snowplow drivers – perhaps when we're being pummelled with more snow than we've seen in several years overtime is not only warranted, but necessary.
I suspect that many councillors, who have no doubt had their phones ringing off the hook with complaints and their in-boxes filled with angry email messages, will have some serious questions for top level staff at Monday's council meeting, and so they should.