St. Marys Journal Argus editorial
As the municipal budget season reaches its annual climax, it’s a turn down a slippery path to start suggesting where ratepayers’ money could be spent. The bottom line at this time of year, of course, is “how much will taxes and service/user fees increase?” and any query about why a certain service is not being performed to everyone’s satisfaction automatically invites accusations that you’re trying to increase the bill.
And when the service that’s being questioned is snow removal, you’re inviting a double whammy of criticism: attempting to raise taxes as well as pampering those people who can’t deal with a little winter weather. (Mel Lastman? Are you listening?)
So, in the early days as the snow piled up between downtown sidewalks and streets over the past couple of weeks, people resisted the temptation to whine about the Town’s inaction. We’re Canadians, after all.
Like the St. Marys Minor Hockey team that set out last Friday morning — another day which saw school buses pulled off the roads across the region — for the three-hour drive through snow and wind to a Silver Stick tournament in Southampton, people were able to put logic behind them.
“Sure, it’s treacherous trying to get from my car to my appointment (or, in the case of the team, trying to get from St. Marys to Southampton), and I’ve been advised by my doctor not to attempt strenuous work (or, in the case of the team, advised by police not to venture out unless it’s an emergency). But this is Canada. We’re supposed to be able to triumph over winter (or, in the case of the team, this is Canada. Hockey. Enough said).
The difference is the team had one day’s worth of stormy weather with which to contend. The ever-growing mountain ranges of snow/slush/ice/dirt that St. Marys shoppers contended with, by contrast, persisted well over a week.
For many who frequent the downtown, stoicism was eventaully replaced by disbelief. The sidewalk/street traverse became a dominant topic of coffeeshop conversation: so-and-so, age 80-something, was seen tottering atop one mound, such that it was impossible to discern whether she was aiming to do some shopping or trying to return to her car; “In the old days, they used to ... using only a wooden-handled ... throwing the snow uphill both ways.”
It’s not a new concern. Recently-released minutes from past meetings of the Business Improvement Area (BIA), stretching back to last year, reveal downtown businesspeople have consistently been questioning Town of St. Marys officials about a protocol for snow removal in the core.
Perhaps the town’s insistence on leaving the mounds in place — and the fact no snow questions were raised during last week’s meeting of Town Council, when the recent BIA minutes were brought to light — has merit. It is snow, after all. It will melt. And there are bigger budget items to tangle with at the present time.
But how long will it take to melt? And what various tranformations will it undergo as it does so, leading to what range of ugly conditions for downtown pedestrians?
So when a resident dashes out of a downtown eatery, slips across the icy sidewalk, and grabs the arm of a Journal Argus reporter to congratulate them for mentioning the BIA’s concerns in an article, it seems pretty certain the majority would be willing to see this year’s snow removal cut into some of the plans for next year’s budget.
We are Canadians, after all. We should be ready and willing to display our prowess at moving snow.