I wouldn't blame you if you had grown tired of shovelling snow after last weekend's heavy snowfall. While the amount of snow we received paled in comparison to what our friends in Newfoundland have been dealing with over the past week, it was still a significant amount.
On Friday of last week I took note of the various weather warnings arriving to my smart phone, and I hit the grocery store to stock up and ensure I would have no need to venture out over the weekend. And I put some fuel in the tank of my car just in case I did indeed need to brave the elements before Monday morning.
By Saturday the snow was falling, and it was quickly accumulating on the ground. From inside the snowglobe confines of my home I watched the white, fluffy snow continue to blanket the community throughout the weekend before it eased sometime late Sunday.
On Monday morning, after a little work to get my car cleared of all of that snow, I found myself quite impressed as I took a drive around the municipality before heading into the office. All of the roads I travelled both in town and rural were in great shape, and the sidewalks in the downtown core had been cleared and readied for businesses to open.
For all of the complaints that we typically hear after any significant snowfall, I was genuinely impressed with the state of the roads and sidewalks that I had seen for myself, so I was a little puzzled when I began hearing some complaints.
The complaints I started to hear weren't about the roads or the sidewalks, but rather the snowbanks that had formed in the downtown core.
No fewer than three locals had already contacted me before noon had even arrived on Monday to complain about the 'crappy job' being done by municipal workers, or the 'lazy municipality' which had yet to break down and carry away those snowbanks.
In my business I hear complaints from people every single day. It is something that you get used to and you expect. Often the complaints expressed by residents are quite valid, and at other times they can be off the wall, but I patiently listen to everyone as I think at the very least everybody deserves to be heard.
It's true that the municipality is responsible for clearing the snowbanks from the downtown core. If that task is not completed from time to time over the winter months, it can be quite difficult to access the sidewalks and downtown businesses, but I was hearing complaints mere hours after the last flakes of snow had fallen, and I began to wonder just what people expect.
From my perspective, when we receive a significant snowfall the top priority is to clear the roads in order to ensure that they are safe and navigable. Based on my drive around the municipality on Monday, that had clearly been done, and done well. The second priority would be to clear sidewalks in the urban area of the municipality in order to ensure that residents including the elderly and school kids have a safe place to walk. That also appeared to have been done well based on my drive around town. The next priority would be to take down any snowbanks in the downtown core, a task that can only be done properly in the overnight hours when the downtown businesses are closed.
It would make sense to me that the clearing of those downtown snowbanks would take place overnight early in the week given the storm marched in and moved on over the weekend, but the handful of people that contacted me directly, and the few that I saw expressing frustrations on social media clearly expected those snowbanks to have been removed immediately.
I was reminded of one of my favourite jokes from my favourite comedian, and it's a joke that my poor children no doubt heard far too often from dear old Dad when they felt they hadn't gotten something they wanted – you can't have everything, where would you put it?
The fact is that we live in an area that is prone to receiving significant amounts of snow in the winter months – we have ski resorts in the area after all, so snow is part of our life whether we like it or not.
It is completely reasonable to expect to be able to travel our roads and our sidewalks, and it is also reasonable to expect that the municipality not allow snowbanks in the downtown shopping area to grow too high, and to take them down and move the snow away, but to be demanding that action within hours of the end of a major weekend-long snowstorm seems a little entitled to me.
Yes. there were some snowbanks in the downtown core on Monday morning, but it wasn't a crisis – this old cripple had no difficulty getting around town, and I doubt that many others did. On Monday night the municipality posted a notice on their Facebook page informing residents that downtown snow removal would be taking place early this week. That seemed reasonable to me. And for those who would have others believe that all other municipalities were completely clear of snow by the time businesses opened on Monday morning, as I type these words on Tuesday morning I have just received a notice from Owen Sound advising that they would be removing downtown snowbanks overnight beginning Wednesday at 8 p.m.
So to those suggesting that Meaford was being negligent by not breaking down those downtown snowbanks within hours of the end of the significant snow event, I guess so was Owen Sound, and every other municipality that followed their processes and planned to do that very task once all of the roads and sidewalks had first been addressed.
Sometimes a little patience and common sense can go a long way.