Regina City Manager says “logic, empathy” should be applied to snow removal policies
A Regina resident who faced a $424 fee for clearing snow in the city says the fee has since been waived.
Al Bodnarchuk told CBC last week he was unable to physically dig his corner lot in the Cathedral neighborhood due to multiple health conditions.
While the 58-year-old received snow removal help from a volunteer as part of the Neighborhood Snow Angels program, he said it wasn’t good enough for the city.
Bodnarchuk said he received a non-compliance notice on Jan. 9, giving him 48 hours’ notice to continue clearing the sidewalk.
After calling his local council and the city to explain, Bodnarchuk said a city crew cleared snow around his home, resulting in a $424 charge on his property taxes, which is standard political practice.
“I told them, ‘I don’t have the money to get anyone to do it and I’m too sick to do it.’ And they said, “Well, you don’t have a choice. You have 48 hours. “They weren’t interested at all,” Bodnarchuk recalled last week.
The Regina resident also said crew pushed some of the snow they were clearing onto the street, which continues to block his truck, which was parked in an accessible spot.
“This is a complete and direct violation and hypocrisy of the city’s snow removal policy to help people with access issues such as wheelchairs and strollers,” he said Wednesday.
“You actually created an even worse threat.”
CLOCK | Regina, a man with a long-term disability, says he can’t pay the city’s bill for cleaning the sidewalk:
Changes to Regina’s Clean Property Bylaw came into effect in 2022. It requires all property owners in the city to clear their own sidewalks and nearby sidewalks to the edges of the sidewalk and as close to the concrete as possible within 48 hours of a snowfall.
After a year of issuing nothing but warnings to educate the public, this is the first winter the statute has been enforced
Bodnarchuk told CBC News on Wednesday that he received a call from a city ordinance official on February 16, telling him the charges had been reversed.
However, he said he had not received any documentation of the change. He added that the city has not indicated whether it will clear the remaining snow from its previous clearing task.
Bodnarchuk said he was considering filing a human rights complaint in relation to the matter.
Fixed snow issue elsewhere
However, city crews were out on February 16 to clear rows of snow made by plows in front of Ted Jaleta’s home in south Regina.
The 68-year-old said the action came a day after he shared his concerns with CBC News.
“Massive machines showed up and[cleared]not just my entire sidewalk, but the entire neighborhood,” he said.
“So they cleaned up. I was very satisfied and they also left a message regretting the circumstances they caused and I received many happy messages from my neighbors.”
Jaleta previously told CBC News he called Councilwoman Cheryl Stadnichuk to see if the city could clear the heavy, packed snow left near his curb after plowing the road.
He said the snow made it difficult for him to leave his recycling and garbage cans safely. Jaleta was also concerned that the drain was clogged under the snow.
After the complaint, the city issued the 68-year-old with a warning for non-compliance with the legal requirements.
“I hope this is actually a lesson for everyone,” said Jaleta, who wants the city to review the bylaws.
“My message to the city is: Please take care. For the elderly, for the most vulnerable.”
Logic, empathy trumps politics: city managers
Regina City Manager Niki Anderson addressed some of the snow removal challenges and, though not by name, Bodnarchuk’s case on Wednesday.
She said that while bylaws officials followed protocol, to the point of charging the homeowner with snow removal on their property taxes, the guidelines “are no excuse for getting in the way of logic and empathy.”
“Do we generally want people to dig up their sidewalks? Of course we do,” Anderson said.
“(But) when our employees are presented with a situation that doesn’t seem to make sense and doesn’t show what I would say is empathy, that’s problematic.”
In this case, the homeowner had enlisted the services of a volunteer snow angel, he just hadn’t fully met the specific width requirement of the bylaws.
Anderson said she tried to reach the affected resident Wednesday morning but was unable to reach him.
In addition, the city manager said her internal instructions to staff are that if they have a question and something doesn’t seem to make sense, it should be “raised” for guidance.
“Every year we do a snow report and we’ll look at it, but I don’t think that’s an automatic call for an immediate change (of the bylaws),” she said.
“It’s more about looking at the individual situation and doing the right thing.”
The city told CBC News last week that the Snow Removal Ordinance aims to create a more accessible city for everyone, whether on foot or using a mobility device.
If someone can’t shovel, it’s a good idea to reach out to family or friends, or sign up for a snow angel. The city notes that there are 11 community organizations that offer volunteer-led programs.
count. Andrew Stevens told CBC News last week that he plans to introduce a motion to revise the bylaws when the winter snow removal budget is presented to council.