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Snow dump not slowing county cleanup

While this winter’s snow dump has tested residents in the Town of Westlock, it’s important to remember it has also had an effect on those people living and driving through the county’s roads.
Miles White shovels out his daughter’s backyard on Jan. 18. White was digging out after the big snow dump the town received over the previous weekend.
Miles White shovels out his daughter’s backyard on Jan. 18. White was digging out after the big snow dump the town received over the previous weekend.

While this winter’s snow dump has tested residents in the Town of Westlock, it’s important to remember it has also had an effect on those people living and driving through the county’s roads.

Reeve Charles Navratil said he has been impressed with how the county workers have been able to keep the roads clear, despite fighting a snow that doesn’t seem to want to stop. “I think our crews have been doing an excellent job and it’s kudos to them,” he said. “It’s a lot of extra hours getting the snow cleared.”

He said he appreciates the fact workers are often putting in up to 16 hours a day before going home for a quick bite to eat and to grab some sleep.

In addition, he has seen first-hand how the snow-clearing effort may seem like a losing battle.

“I know the particular road I use to go home at 8 o’clock at night,” he said. “The next morning I’ll go out to get my tractor to clean out our yard, and I could see the road had been plowed and there was another six inches of snow that had fallen since they plowed it.”

He added as the snow continues to fall, the effort required to clear it increases, along with figuring out where to put it all.

“The more snow we get, the tougher it gets, especially in our hamlets and such, to take and keep them cleaned up and keep (the roads) wide enough,” he said.

Another concern the county has is making sure people are able to get home to their families. People are often able to get out and to work in the morning, Navratil said, but they still need to get home in the evenings.

“You want to see these people get back home,” he said. “You don’t want to see them stranded on the road.”

A few residents have complained, he said, but there haven’t been enough to be concerned.

As for the snow-clearing budget, Navratil said the snow has taken a bite out of the county’s coffers. Simply running the equipment costs money, since fuel is so expensive.

Compared to the town, however, he said the county is doing all right, but it’s not necessarily saving money either.

“It’s definitely costing us more money to move snow than it’s cost us the last few years.”

The county’s acting public works Supt., Dennis Mueller, said the county is always prepared to have to clear a lot of snow, and budgets accordingly.

“We always budget for, quote, a heavy snowfall,” he said. “Of course if we don’t need it then that’s even all the better to the county.”

Pembina Hills school division secretary-treasurer Tracy Meunier said this is the first time she can remember where the buses have been shut down division-wide three times in the same school year.

“We’ve been blessed the last few years with really mild temperatures and mild weather in the wintertime,” she said.

Since April 2002, buses have not run division-wide only 13 times, according to a list Meunier provided.

During the current 2010-2011 school year, the buses did not run on Dec. 16, Jan. 17 and Jan. 18. The buses also left the schools early on Dec. 15.

“With the volume of snow, which of course makes the roads impassible, I can’t recall the last time we’ve shut down for three days in a year,” she said.

Every winter it is routine for some buses not to run on occasion, she said, but this year has been truly exceptional.