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Mayor Column February 2017

During the winter months, and specifically following a major snow event, the Town office receives a high volume of inquiries related to snow plowing, sidewalk clearing, and winter road maintenance. For this reason I wanted to share information related to the Town’s snow plowing activities and policies.

East Gwillimbury is responsible for the maintenance of 376 kilometers of roads and over 70 kilometers of sidewalks. In addition to this, there are 174 kilometers of roads within the Town that are maintained by York Region. East Gwillimbury’s large landscape can make clearing a challenge during winter snow events but be assured that community safety is always the number one focus in our clean-up efforts.

Town staff patrol roads to monitor for winter roads conditions and sand/salt trucks are dispatched at the start of a snowfall and at the first sign of roads beginning to ice. Depending on anticipated weather conditions proactive anti-icing activities may start before the storm. When snow accumulation reaches 8 centimetres (3 inches), main roads are plowed first to ensure that motorists and emergency service vehicles like fire trucks and ambulances, can safely travel to hospitals, schools and work, and access public transportation. Local streets are plowed only after snow accumulation reaches 10 centimetres (4 inches). When streets require plowing, they are cleared within 12 hours for main roads and 24 hours for local streets. Heavy snowfalls or successive storms can sometimes extend this period.

East Gwillimbury is one of the only municipalities in York Region to clear 100 per cent of all Town sidewalks. Sidewalks will be cleared after snow accumulation reaches 2.5 centimetres with primary routes leading to schools are plowed first, followed by residential sidewalks.  Sidewalk clearing is generally completed within 24 hours after the end of the storm; however, when we have a heavy snowfall, or successive winter events back to back, it may take longer.

Last year, the total budget for road operations including equipment, material, labour, and contracted services was approximately $882,000. This represents just over 5 per cent of the Town’s total budget. Staff continue to explore options to introduce efficiencies, reduce operating costs and embrace environmentally friendly practices. A recent Town initiative was the modification of the sand/salt mixture used on roads in the winter. The Town now applies a mixture of 70 per cent sand and 30 per cent salt to roads. As a result, less material needs to be applied, snow melts quicker, and there is less to clean up in the spring. The total volume reduction of material used on the roads was 15 per cent, making the process both environmentally beneficial and cost effective. To further these efforts, the Town is looking into pre wetting the salt with an organic liquid to assist with salt application performance. Another future initiative is the direct application of anti-icing liquid to roads in advance of storms. 

We ask our residents to help by ensuring fire hydrants are clear of snow and that you refrain from parking vehicles on the road to ensure snow plows and emergency vehicles can safely travel the roads. 

For more on the Town’s snow clearing activities and what you can do to help visit the Town’ snow clearing FAQs.