Kelowna News

Taxpayers heap abuse on snow removal staff

Image Credit: File photo

THOMPSON-OKANAGAN - Few things, it seems, can bring out the ugly in a person more than a snow covered street.

A story posted yesterday with a photo from the perspective of a West Kelowna snowplow driver showed cars parked willy-nilly on a local road, making it virtually impossible to plow.

The story touched a nerve and an outpouring of reader comments — some siding with the driver, others coming down hard with nasty comments on what they see as shoddy service.

Those same nasty words are often directed at real people, the clerks who man the phone lines at civic offices and works yards when the snow really starts to fall.

“I’ve got a pool of clerks sitting outside my office who are regularly screamed at, yelled at, swore at,” Kelowna public works manager Darryl Astofooroff says. “I can tell you unequivocally, they get abused on a regular basis. We tell them if people start swearing, that they don’t have to take it and (should) hang up."

Complaints seem to be the same in every community and primarily centre around plows blocking the end of driveways with windrows or streets that haven’t been plowed at all. That’s something Astofooroff acknowledges can happen, but is more likely because the street in question is of a lower priority or changing conditions make it appear as if the plow hadn't been there at all.

“We don’t always take it down to the pavement and the snow, especially when it warms up, the snow will ‘wool up’ and it looks like it hasn’t been plowed. People will insist we haven’t plowed their street but the GPS shows it’s been plowed six times."

Sometimes, taxpayers complain because they don’t understand the complexities of moving or removing hundreds of tons of snow from streets and sidewalks, Astofooroff says.

Sometimes they just don’t care.

“Anytime it snows, we get the people who want it done and they want it done yesterday.” 

Sometimes they are just angry.

"They will insist on talking to a supervisor but then just vent for a minute and hang up. Sometimes they don’t even let me talk.”

Snow removal bylaws in most communities require owners to remove all traces of ice and snow from sidewalks adjacent to their property. Roads are plowed in priority sequence with arterial and collector roads plowed first before sidestreets and laneways.

The technology doesn’t exist yet for the grader to avoid dumping that pile of snow at the foot of your driveway. In the meantime, it’s your responsibility, not matter how mad it makes you.

View from a snowplow cab on a West Kelowna street.
View from a snowplow cab on a West Kelowna street.
Image Credit: West Kelowna

To contact a reporter for this story, email John McDonald at or call 250-808-0143. To contact the editor, email or call 250-718-2724.

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