VERNON - It may be time to mow your lawn in most parts of Vernon, but snowfall is plaguing those who live and work in the Silver Star area.
Silver Star Mountain Resort and year-round residents are sounding the alarm over questionable road maintenance practices following a snowstorm this week.
Resident Steve Darby and his family were snowed in at their Silver Star home for almost 15 hours after 40 cm of snow fell over 24 hours and went unattended by the company in charge of clearing roads.
“This happens every spring,” Darby says. “I’ve lived here nearly 10 years and every year as soon as the mountain closes, the snow removal service goes downhill.”
When the resort closes for the season, it gets reclassified and the snow removal company, JPW Road and Bridge Maintenance, only responds based on weather, resort spokesperson Brad Baker says.
“Just because the resort is closed doesn’t mean there aren’t still people here,” Baker says. “We have over 60 employees that commute daily just with the resort, and more from private businesses. It’s also a community, we have full-timers that rely on those roads being open to get to work, for school buses and emergency vehicles.”
Darby, a volunteer with the Silver Star Fire Department, says 4-wheel drive and good winter tires weren’t enough to drive through the knee deep snow that was left untouched on residential side roads.
“If there’s a fire in one of the houses, not only would I not be able to get to the station, I wouldn’t be able to get up to the house,” Darby says.
JPW declined an interview and referred questions to the Ministry of Transportation, which awarded them the contract just last year. A statement from the Ministry says “the priority was to maintain the primary access road first, and then do cleanup on the local side roads.”
The statement also said the maintenance contractor is always ready to respond with snow clearing responsibilities, regardless of whether the resort is open or closed, but added Tuesday night’s storm dropped more snow than expected.
Baker says the situation is just a taste of what went on over the whole winter season when snowbanks encroached on roads and equipment proved insufficient to handle the load.
“We were having an issue with vehicles passing safely because the width of the road was so narrow,” Baker says. “Pedestrians were jumping off the road to get out of the way of cars because there was no room.”
Baker is in communication with the Ministry and hopes the situation will improve with quicker response times and better service. But it’s not the first year he’s contacted them about the issue.
“It happens every year and then everyone forgets about it,” he says. “It seems like the squeaky wheel gets the grease instead of having a dependable service.”
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