The City of Kenora is looking to ‘question the norm’ and improve their snow clearing services after a recent major snowfall.

Kevin Gannon, a former Canadian Armed Forces member, joined the City as its new Director of Engineering and Infrastructure Services in May, after coming from the Town of Sylvan Lake, Alberta.

Gannon’s now in charge of snow clearing operations for Kenora, and he says he and his staff are taking the time to review all of their current policies to ensure snow clearing operations are as efficient as possible for community members, as well as working crews.

“We’re looking at opportunities to make efficiencies, understanding the level of concerns that we have internally and from our customer base,” explained Gannon. “It’s not that we’re doing things wrong, it’s just, I want a good explanation of ‘why?’. We’re questioning the norm.”

“We definitely have unique conditions here that pose unique challenges for us. But we have to make sure that we’re fiscally responsible at the same time. Every increase in the level of service, there’s an increase in cost.”

Late last week, the Kenora area was rocked by about 35 centimetres of snow which shut down nearby highways and many local roadways. Gannon says it was unique, as the snow came without a prior cold-snap – leading to unintended snow removal concerns.

“That cold snap really allows the ground to settle where the plows aren’t jumping, you can grade gravel roads – which we’re some of the complaints – and it really limited our equipment’s ability to get out there and remove some of the areas that normally wouldn’t be a problem.”

“Every storm is unique,” he adds. “We don’t have the luxury of shutting down all the roads in town. Sometimes you go just to make it accessible, but not perfect. You still have to drive to the conditions of the road. We try to go back and do clean up, but sometimes it’s not as effective.”

Gannon adds that maintenance Standards set forth by the province require that crews clear specific roads, such as emergency and bus routes, accessible parking areas and sidewalks, within a set period of time.

“The rules and regulations are determined by the road’s speed, type of road, the design, the amount of traffic over the roads, the width…all these engineering parameters go into the classification on these roads,” he explained.

Gannon notes that Kenora residents are asked to wait at least 72 hours following the end of a snowfall event to report on any road maintenance concerns.

In a recent social media post, community members shared their concerns about snow and ice buildup in their driveways after roadways get plowed by the city’s graders, saying Kenora should purchase a snow gate for their graders.

The Township of Ignace purchased a snow gate earlier this year which clears the buildup of snow and ice after the grader clears snow away from the roadway. The additional piece of machinery is attached to the side of the grader throughout the winter season.

The City of Kenora actually does own the equipment, but doesn’t use it on a regular basis. Gannon explains the gate can significantly slow down the work of local crews, as the gate would have to be constantly added on and then removed, depending on which street is being plowed.

“The main equipment that’s being used is the most effective that they have for the work that needs to be done at this point. It would actually reduce the level of service because of the interchangeability.”

“You can’t do small stretches of roads with large equipment,” adds Gannon. “You should be maximizing those routes. You also don’t want to be damaging infrastructure on the road. The equipment has been measured, but we’re looking at new technologies to see what they can do.”

While Gannon and his team continue to simplify and clarify the City’s snow clearing By-Laws, he says working crews and snowplow operators have continued to do an amazing job so far this season.

“It’s stressful. My hat goes off to the team. They put in a lot of hours with a lot of effort. They hear the complaints. They want to do what’s good for the community.”

“We try to maximize our resources. Crews have to be pulled off if there’s a water break. We’re managing critical infrastructure simultaneously while these events are going on. Individuals just see ‘well my road didn’t get plowed’, but those resources are all out there. Every resource that’s available is being used.”

Residents are reminded to not pass an operating snowplow and to always remain a safe distance back when you see blue flashing lights.