Removal of snow deposited at the end of driveways became an issue recently involving Champlain Township and property owners on Bertha Street in Vankleek Hill.

On Wednesday, February 1, Department of Public Works crews removed a significant amount of snow which had accumulated in the street and made it nearly impassable following days of significant snowfall. Big snowblowers cut vertical cliffs of snow and ice along each side of the street and cleared the roadway right to the pavement surface. The snowbanks on either side of the street are about seven feet high. During the process of cleaning up the street, snow was plowed into the entrances of driveways, and that upset some residents.

Brunhild Shierding said she had never seen anything like it before on the street. She said the amount of snow, which included big frozen snowballs, made it difficult for people to get in and out of their driveways, and was not easy for older people to remove.

“We’re elderly here,” said Shierding.

She contacted the Department of Public Works. Her neighbour Hélène Desjardins did also.

“For me, it’s a security thing,” Desjardins said.

She was unsure about driving over the snow at the end of her driveway on Thursday, February 2 and potentially damaging her car. She canceled a medical appointment because she did not want to take the risk.

Desjardins normally has a private contractor remove the snow from her driveway. She called her contractor but said she was told to contact the township. The contractor said if they were to remove the snow deposited by plows in all of their customers’ driveways, it would add considerable costs.

“They said it would cost them thousands of dollars to clear the driveways,” remarked Desjardins.

She said customers pay the contractor to clear their driveways for 20 snowfalls per season. Anything else costs extra.

Township crews have been busy

A February 2 announcement on the township website explains it took 13 hours to remove snowbanks main roads following the snowfall of the last few days. Crews had to clear and load the snow on trucks as many times in January 2023 as they did during the 4 months of the 2021-2022 winter season.

The township explained that the large volume of snowfall in recent days, on top of the continuous winter weather events since the holidays has greatly complicated snow removal operations. According to the announcement, more than 67 centimetres of snow fell in 30 days. If the township were to extend the working hours of its employees, it is still constrained by the provincial maximum driving time standard to ensure the safety of employees, which further complicates our operations when there is a large snowfall over several days.

Champlain Township recommends property owners keep an extra area of the shoulder of their street cleared of snow to the right of the driveway (if standing on the street facing the house) to accommodate most of the snow being spread by plows, which will lessen the amount of snow the plow deposits on the driveway.

It is also against township bylaw to deposit snow from private property back into a street.

Councillor visits property owner

Vankleek Hill Ward Councillor Paul Emile Duval visited Desjardins on February 2 to discuss her concerns about snow removal.

“We’re not going to clear every driveway in town,” Duval said.

He said councillors cannot directly instruct employees on how to do their jobs, but they can forward the concerns of citizens to municipal management.

Duval added he requested the Department of Public Works respond to the concerned Bertha Street residents. He also explained how the township is limited in what it can do because of human resources and limits on hours of work for safety.

“We don’t have a big crew that works for the township. They do the best they can,” Duval commented.

Hired contractor to remove

On Friday, February 3, Desjardins and Shierding went ahead and paid the contractor to clear the snow. She said township staff had not responded to her email either. Desjardins wishes the township would prevent the problem of heavy snow at the end of driveways while they’re clearing streets, instead of leaving it for residents to look after.