Weds Nov 29: BGCDSB Director Retiring; What's Happening at St. Mary's High School
Plus: Why do we get 'Significant Weather Event' notices from the City?
The City of Owen Sound declared a ‘Significant Weather Event’ Monday, and you’re probably getting used to seeing these notices several times each winter.
But what does it mean?
I was going to dig into the province’s resources on this but found that Denis Langlois already did a good job of exploring the topic in this 2018 article, when he was with The Sun Times.
As he explained at the time, after interviewing then-director of public works and engineering Dennis Kefalas:
“The statements… are intended to help reduce the number of successful lawsuits against the city that stem from weather-related incidents on its streets.”
See, back in the fall of 2012, the City of Owen Sound overhauled its snow removal policy. They expected that adopting the minimum maintenance standards set out in the Municipal Act – in a city that gets twice the provincial average snowfall – would save about $170,000 per year.
The Municipal Act regulates how long municipalities have to remove snow once it’s reached an a level of accumulation as outlined in this table:
Now, I’m told Owen Sound has no Class 1 roads; 10th St is a Class 2. According to the provincial minimum standard, the City has up to 6 hours after snow accumulation reaches a depth of 5cm to remove said snow.
Side streets, though – municipalities aren’t required to clear 7cm of snow within any timeframe. Once it reaches 8cm, you can expect to see a plow within 12 or 16 hours, depending on the classification of the street.
It’s a system that probably makes a lot of sense in Toronto.
Brad McRoberts, the city’s operations director at the time, said we’d try it for a winter and that the city would gather public feedback and assess it from there. Someone must feel it’s been successful because we’ve been stuck with the minimum standard of snow removal allowed by law ever since.
And when it really snows – well, we declare a Significant Weather Event. That way, the laws designed to protect the public and compensate for injury in the event of poorly maintained roads simply don’t apply.
Back to Langlois’ 2018 interview with the director of public works to learn why:
The review found that Owen Sound cannot be successfully sued if any roadway structure is in a “state of repair,” the report says.
When it comes to winter maintenance, roads can only be considered in a state of repair when the municipality can prove it has been monitoring the weather, has followed a reasonable plan to prevent ice formation and snow accumulation and has declared a significant weather event based on a weather hazard identified by Environment Canada.
So there you have it: the Significant Weather Event designation gives municipalities a tool for saying, “We’re working on it," while limiting liability when they cannot keep roads maintained to the minimum standard.
The more you know! 🌈
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