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Perfect snow-free roads financially impossible

Posted on January 14, 2015 by Taber Times

‘Don’t let moments of bleakness get you down. Remember that every winter is followed by a spring.’

Those were the immortal words of former In the Mind’s Eye photographer David Bly back 10 years ago for this newspaper chain.

With the heavy snow that hit the Taber and Vauxhall areas last week, that positive attitude was certainly needed through some trying times navigating through roads in several southern Alberta towns and cities.

Town of Taber office employees were inundated with complaints from citizens who were unhappy with the town’s level of service to snow removal in the area. With any municipality, large or small, it is probably a given town employees hear the common refrain of ‘I pay my taxes’ as the generality of why town services in any aspect should be done better.

These frustrations are understandable as one could drive around any Taber street last week (if they were able) and see someone getting stuck, needing the help of able-bodied co-workers, friends, or family to have their vehicles freed from their snowy prisons.

But through that frustration can come unrealistic expectations, as no municipality has the tax dollars to make sure every single street is clear of snow in a timely matter. At least not without a major sacrifice to funding in other areas that help make a town run.

According to weather data collected from 1981 to 2010, Taber averaged 97.4 centimetres of snow annually, averaging snow 29 days out of the year.

If the Taber/Vauxhall area had snow for those 29 days like it had last week, that average number would be shattered easily.

It is common practice for any municipality to plow the main arteries and paths to places like the hospital, police, and emergency services first, and then work their way outward.

But that does not mean every single street in Taber. If that was the case, several more services would have had to be contracted out and if union, you can guarantee those wages are time-and-a-half, double time or triple time depending on hours worked.

That news is of little solace in those neighbourhoods that nary see a plow work their streets as they find themselves late for work trying to get unstuck in their vehicles or have someone with 4X4 capabilities drive them.

A cursory look along many Taber streets on late afternoon last Thursday saw many different plows working their magic, but a municipality can only do so much.

It has been revealed with the huge dump of snow last Wednesday/Thursday, 12 vehicles were contracted out on top of the regular Town of Taber crews to help with snow removal.

Even with hopes of chinooks, helping with snow removal has its own challenges as warmth followed by a quick cold snap can have melted snow puddles turn into ice rinks on the roads if they are not attended to quickly.

But at the same time that does not absolve the town of responsibility.

There is always room for improvement in any service.

Can the town take old traffic studies to see if some higher traffic areas are being neglected? Perhaps take a look at how often Taber gets snow in a calendar year and divide up the days when different residential neighbourhoods will get some service.

Even just the sight of a plow once or twice per year during winter can help calm public perception that everyone gets a visit from town crews at least once.

That is where the ‘I pay my taxes’ argument comes into affect, because every taxpayer should have access to town services at least some of the time no matter where they live in town, if you are to treat taxpayers the same with access to services.

Other than that, it is up to the citizenry itself to help get their fellow man through the harsh winter. Sometimes it is a matter of driving to the conditions. If an area of town looks sketchy as you drive around, with its amount of snow accumulation in certain areas, look for an alternate route to avoid getting stuck. There are certainly driving tips of old wily veterans of winter driving people can adhere to, to lessen their chances of their vehicles coming to a snow standstill.

Reports have surfaced off the Taber Kindness Confessions Facebook page of Taberites helping each other in this time of need shoveling or helping push vehicles who are stuck in snow ruts.

A combination of efficient town snow removal, common-sense winter driving, and a helping-your-neighbour attitude can add up to a less stressful winter for all when it comes to navigating the streets of Taber.

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