City officials under fire – again – over alleged failure of snow removal ops

Chomedey residents seething over snow-cluttered streets and unplowed sidewalks

In spite of claims over the past few winters by Laval officials that they’ve managed to resolve many of the city’s long-standing snow removal problems, homeowners on certain key residenial streets in Chomedey are complaining once again about uncleared sidewalks and other examples of what they say is mismanaged snow removal in Laval.

The City of Laval claims to have beefed up its snow removal strategy with, among other things, a smartphone app that allows residents to track snow removal operations in real-time.

As well, a major change was announced last spring to the winter parking regulations on residential streets. As of this winter, car owners are no longer obliged to park on alternating sides during the winter months.

New parking rules this winter

Chomedey resident Andreas Pantelis stands on the edge of his property on Bennett Ave. last Sunday His left-hand points to where the sidewalk normally should be, but where the Bombardiers mini-plows hadn’t passed for at least a week, he maintained. (Photo: Martin C. Barry, Newsfirst Multimedia)

According to a press release on the new parking strategy circulated by the city last May, car owners are now free to park on either side of the street during the winter, but must still “alternate” when snow removal operations start.

When city officials made the announcement last spring, they estimated that the number of days requiring alternance would drop from 150 to 36 per year. Prior to the change, vehicles had to be moved from one side of the street to the other every weekday from Oct. 1 to April 30.

In addition to this, for a number of years now the City of Laval has been encouraging its residents to download and use its “Info-Stationnement” smartphone app (available for iPhones through Apple’s App Store, and for Android phones through Google Play), in order to better understand the street parking situation during the winter months.

City recommends app use

A press release issued by the city in October last year advised residents not to judge the state of snow removal ops only from what they see on the street, but to rely on the information provided by the app, text messages sent out by the city, or by calling the 3-1-1 public works phone service.

With all that being said, it means little to some residents on certain streets in Chomedey, where, they claim, the snow removal – and especially the de-icing and plowing of sidewalks – was especially lamentable in recent weeks, after Laval got whacked by several winter storms.

“Ten days,” Andreas Pantelis of Chomedey’s Bennett Ave. called out to a reporter last Sunday afternoon from the front steps of his home, noting the number of days the sidewalk on his street hadn’t been cleared, he said. This in spite of at least two ice and snow storms that roared through Laval over the past two weeks or so.

Can’t get past snow banks

Pantelis, who suffers from a heart condition that prevents him from engaging in strenuous exercise like snow shovelling, said he and his wife couldn’t get their car our of their driveway because of the enormous mounds of snow piled on the unplowed sidewalk in front of their home.

Added to this, he said, Bennett St., like so many other streets in this part of Chomedey, is narrow. As such, the snow banks piled on each side, that the city had yet to pick up, created a large-impassible channel for cars to navigate.

A few streets west of Bennett, on Clarendon Ave. near the corner of Notre-Dame Blvd. where Nick Furfaro has his home, the problem was the same: As of last Sunday, the sidewalk that passes in front of his and all the other homes on the street hadn’t been plowed by the mini-Bombardier for around a week.

The view along de Cherbourg Ave. in Chomedey last Sunday, where the city had posted signs advising residents not to park because of imminent snow removal operations. (Photo: Martin C. Barry, Newsfirst Multimedia)

Many senior citizens impacted

A helluva situation in a neighbourhood where a very large percentage of the residents are senior citizens, who would have trouble enough navigating their way in the dead of winter along icy sidewalks, even under the best of circumstances.

“Firstly, the snow has not been removed as it used to be,” Furfaro said. “But you can’t access the sidewalks, either. You’ve got to walk on the street because the sidewalks haven’t been cleared. The snow removal from the previous heavy snowfall hasn’t been removed, and the one that just happened added to the volume.”

On Thursday morning last week, according to Furfaro, residents of Clarendon found themselves being serenaded by the sound of a passing tow truck’s loud horn, warning to move their cars because snow-blowing was about to start.

Snow-removal signs not put up

“But there were no signs put on the snow banks like they used to,” he said. “And the last time they removed snow they did not put signs warning the citizens that there would be snow removal. So, we have no way of knowing when it is they’re going to be removing snow.”

And then there is the parking situation. Despite the city’s insistence that it cleared up whatever confusion there had previously been over the winter parking regulations, it would seem that not even City of Laval employees are entirely clear on the new concept.

Furfaro said that last week, he saw a parking officer with the City of Laval going around ticketing cars parked on a side of Clarendon where, according to his reading of the regulations, parking is supposed to be permitted during the winter months.

Confusion over parking rules

“One of my neighbours was about to get a ticket, and the ticket was placed on his car and [the ticket officer] was going onto the next car. I said to him you cannot give a ticket when we are parked on the right side. We are allowed to park on our side unless there are snow removal notices.

Nick Furfaro of Clarendon Ave. in Chomedey is seen here last Sunday standing on the east side of the street with the area behind him being the sidewalk which for the past week at least had not been plowed. (Photo: Martin C. Barry, Newsfirst Multimedia)

“He said ‘No, you have it wrong. He said whenever there’s more than 5 centimetres of snow you can’t park.’ I said that’s not what the sign says. The sign says parking is allowed except when there is snow removal operations.”

Furfaro said the officer relented and he saw him removing the tickets he’d already place on some some cars. As for the city’s parking app, Furfaro said on Sunday that during the previous week the app highlighted his side of Clarendon in red, indicating no parking was allowed. “And yet, there’s been no snow removal,” he added.

Where is there to park?

Chomedey city councillor for Chomedey Aglaia Revelakis, who sits with the opposition Action Laval party, said in an interview that there is still a lot of confusion over the parking app. “People don’t know where to park anymore,” she said, noting that the city increased allotments for snow removal in recent annual budgets, “yet we don’t see much improvement.”

Chomedey city councillor Aglaia Revelakis says there is still a lot of confusion over the parking app

While suggesting that the city’s public works department may have been caught off-guard with the latest storms, she continued, “There is no abrasive on the sidewalks. It’s very slippery and you cannot walk. My phone has been ringing endlessly this week. For residents, it’s dangerous out there, especially for the elderly who have to go out on errands.”

Mystery of the unplowed sidewalks

The Laval News reached out to Sainte-Dorothée councillor Ray Khalil, who is the executive-committee member responsible for snow removal ops. After getting an update on the overall snow removal operations, he maintained last Sunday that 70 per cent of Laval’s streets had been cleared.

Although Khalil had no specific information for Chomedey, he insisted that “in the next two days probably everything will be done.” While he was at a loss to explain why the sidewalks on Bennett, Clarendon, Chambord, Cherbourg and other nearby streets went unplowed all this time, Khalil said the City of Laval had allotted a considerable amount in a recent budget to upgrade its fleet of Bombardier sidewalk plows.