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Cartmell town hall fields questions, frustrations with Edmonton's snow removal strategy

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A city councillor says he's heard Edmontonians' concerns about this year's snow removal "loud and clear," especially when it comes to improving communication about neighbourhood blading.

On Wednesday evening, Tim Cartmell hosted an online town hall to gather feedback about snow and ice control. He plans to bring that information to city administration in a meeting Thursday.

"I want to hear all of the concerns that people may have," he told CTV News Edmonton before the event.

"I want to understand all of these specific anecdotes that become generalized problems," Cartmell added, who represents Ward pihêsiwin. "There's absolutely a lot of room for improvement. We absolutely don't want people wrongly ticketed."

Dozens attended the approximately two-hour event and voiced frustrations ranging from the city not putting up signs that plows were coming into their neighbourhoods to the frequency that streets are cleared.

This year, the city implemented a new notification system to better inform residents by text or email when neighbourhood snow removal was starting. Several people expressed concerns that despite signing up for the service, they never received notice once the parking ban was declared.

"My advice to administration is going to be that we need to be very, very clear about the fact that bans are in place," Cartmell said. "And be very, very clear about what form of notifications people can expect and, just frankly, how reliable those forms of communication are going to be."

One Edmontonian shared that they enrolled to receive text messages for their home but were ticketed after they parked in front of a friend's place across the city during the parking ban.

"That is a tough one," Cartmell said in response.

"If you are not in your home neighbourhood and you have no idea if this neighbourhood is about to be plowed or isn't, how do we allow you to be informed about that," he mused.

Another person asked Cartmell if the city would implement a "grace" period for those who received tickets, given the number of issues with parking ban notifications.

"The last thing — and I am sure my council colleagues would agree with this — we want to see is for a lot of people to get tickets," Cartmell responded, adding that he doubted the city would waive tickets.

"What we really want to see is for cars to be out of the way so that the plows can do the job quickly, carefully and correctly, and then once that work is done, people can go back to parking on the street and not have to wait for a full 10- or 12-day ban to expire."

Coun. Tim Cartmell speaks with CTV News Edmonton on Wednesday, Feb. 8, 2023 (CTV News Edmonton/Matt Marshall).

A town hall attendee proposed the idea of city crews stacking snow cleared from residential roads in stormwater ponds to save on the cost of carting it to distant snow storage yards.

Cartmell acknowledged he asked that same question at a recent committee meeting with Epcor and city officials, saying that could go against environmental regulations.

"I am going to dig into that hard," Cartmell said. "Because I feel like we are way over-engineering this thing and way over-analyzing this thing."

Another person questioned the councillor on why St. Albert can clear roadways to near-bare pavement without creating massive windrows.

Cartmell said the neighbouring community's wider boulevards save it money by not having to move the cleared snow away.

Someone else asked if any city crews visit a neighbourhood before plows move through to assess if blading is even required.

"I don't think they do," the city councillor said. "I think we pull the trigger on plowing every road in Edmonton, and then we go and plow every road in Edmonton, whether it needs it or not, and I don't think that's right." 

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