‘That’s too bad. That’s your problem’

Daniel
Daniel MacEachern
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Woman can’t get into fire-damaged home after city crews dump mountain of snow on property

A mountain of snow blocks access to Lori Clarke’s home on Durham Place. Clarke and her daughter were forced from their home by a fire Dec. 22. Since then, city crews piled snow in front of the home, preventing her from getting back into her home. — Photo by Joe Gibbons/The Telegram

A St. John’s woman is upset city snowclearing crews dumped so much snow on her front yard and driveway that she can’t get into her house.

Lori Clarke and her five-year-old daughter have been staying at Leaside Manor since fire damaged the interior of her Durham Place house Dec. 22, but she has been returning to the house to salvage anything she can from inside.

“We have been back and forth,” she said. “Someone had shovelled out a path so we could go back and forth to the house.”

Clarke discovered Sunday evening that a massive snowbank had been deposited in her front yard and driveway after the weekend’s heavy snowfall, making it impossible to get into the house on a cul-de-sac at the end of the street.

“A bunch of the neighbours were gathered outside talking about it,” she said.

“A few of them had offered to help, but there’s nothing they can do. … It’s just way too much snow.”

Clarke said she assumed city crews figured the house is currently unoccupied, though how they knew she’s not sure, as the fire damage isn’t apparent from the outside. She called the city’s 311 line Monday morning and was told by the woman who answered the phone the city would send a truck to investigate.

“I said, ‘It really needs to be cleared,’ and she said they would investigate and decide that,” she said. That evening, after the snow was left, she called back and was told the city had already investigated and determined similar snow piles are left on many properties.

“I said, ‘How in the world am I going to clear that?’ And she said, ‘That’s too bad. That’s your problem,’” said Clarke. “She said, ‘You’ll have to get a private contractor to do it. You’ll have to hire one.’ … She was absolutely rude and condescending.”

Clarke’s father wound up calling the mayor’s office, which Clarke said resulted in a partial clearing, but her house is still inaccessible barring hours of work with a shovel.

Paul Mackey, the city’s director of public works, said Tuesday evening that crews will often deposit snow on properties where driveways haven’t been cleared in some time.

“Our operators go along, and if they see evidence of a driveway, they don’t stack any snow,” he said. “The normal windrow from the plow would come off like it would in anybody’s driveway, but we don’t push snow up if there’s a driveway or a walkway or anything like that.”

Mackey said he understood the house has been empty for a while. “In a case like that, we would usually go back, and if it’s reasonable and it’s something we overlooked and accidentally put it in there, we would remove at least some of the major amount that was pushed in.”

Mackey said it can be tricky to remove all of the snow for fear of causing damage to the property. “But we would probably pull back at least the excess on the top and give the owner a break,” he said. “If it was a situation where it wasn’t their fault, we would try to give them a break. If it were the case where the driveway just hasn’t been used all winter because somebody wasn’t shovelling it and they were still living there, we wouldn’t respond to that kind of a complaint because that type of driveway wouldn’t be obvious. It’s up to the owner to make it obvious to us.”

Mackey said Clarke’s case sounds like a “hardship situation.”

“It’s quite likely we would remove some of that snow, yes,” he said. “I haven’t got all the details of it yet, but on the surface of it, it certainly seems like a situation where we would go back and remove the excess snow from the property, yes.”

dmaceachern@thetelegram.com

Twitter: @DanMacEachern

Organizations: Durham Place house

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  • Robert
    January 09, 2014 - 16:45

    @Randy Seriously? Actually yes I would consider this a special situation. The woman had a fire and if you'd read the previous articles on the fire, you'll see somebody was reportedly seriously injured!! Yes it could be worse, somebody could have died, but this lady has a right to complain! The city dumped snow in her driveway. She is not complaining about the snow that FELL in her driveway. So in addition to having experiences a fire, having a family member injured in the fire, now she has to deal with the city dumping snow on her property. @Randy... I bet you've complained about a lot less in life than that! I think you're the one who needs to "soak" your head!

  • Jim Bishop
    January 09, 2014 - 15:04

    I've seen a disturbing trend in the City's snow clearing practices. First, it should be said that the city has been spending money hand over fist on the best snow clearing equipment money can buy. After a storm these huge pieces of machinery come through the neighborhood with their side blades down making huge cuts through the snow. Unlike old daus when there was a single blade on the sand truck, we now have these huge front end loaders and sand trucks with side blades than can clear the streets back to the bank in 1 pass in each direction. When the leave the neighborhood the snow had been pushed back as far as possible. The next day, or overnight, they come back to "widen" the streets. But they already widened them as much as possible so how is it that on the second pass they are able to "widen' them more? Why, they have all those wonderful cleared driveways to push the snow into. As far as I'm concerned, this is nothing short of scandalous. We are being taxed to the hilt and paying for all this heavy equipment, yet have to do the city's work for them and clear out driveways a second time with a shovel. Its definitely not right.

  • Fred
    January 09, 2014 - 05:54

    This is not rocket science. Mackey move the damn snow. No ifs ands or buts. People next time you call anyone with a problem get their name, record the time and a short note on the context of the conversation. Maybe it's time the city monitored these calls to 311 for quality assurance. Galgay can put this forward on the agenda of the next council meeting. Happy New Year.

  • Fred
    January 09, 2014 - 05:13

    No use re-hashing others comments. Mackey move the damn snow no ifs ands or buts. People make sure that whenever you call any department with a problem the first thing you do is ask the name of the person to whom you are talking to and secondly jot down the time and a short note on the context of the conversation. Any operator dealing with the public should should identify his/her self upon receiving a call Maybe it's time the City recorded these calls for quality assurance. Galgay can put it forward at next council meeting. Happy New Year everyone.

  • Randy
    January 09, 2014 - 03:46

    My Goodness, and dear Lord people!!Get over it!!!We get lots of snow in this part of the world (ya think ya'd know THAT by now) and what do you expect?? Complain that the streets are not cleard, then complain about snow being pushed onto your property????And we wonder why kids have the attitudes they do!!What, you special or something Mrs., so the city shouldn't put snow on YOUR property,,,,,,,,OH MY!!SOAK your head, lady!!!Jeez,if that's your big problem in life, lucky you , I say!!!

  • Gloria
    January 08, 2014 - 21:21

    This pic was taken AFTER the council removed some of the snow.This is about one third of what was originally there. Guess the fire hydrant being buried is irrelevant also.

  • Kimberly Myers-Schuh
    January 08, 2014 - 19:52

    Wow, I am apparently very, very lucky as I encountered the exact same situation at my son's rental home. He was away since December 16th and we knew that there would be snow in the driveway so made a call to have it cleared. The first operator told us it was like Mount Everest, so my cousin made arrangements to have another operator go over, he too said the same thing. I was told I need heavy equipment to remove the snow that clearly the city had pushed onto his driveway. I emailed his councilman whom was exceptional with his response and he forwarded my concern to the city. This was Monday night. The snow was cleared last night by the city, it took them 3 hours to remove it all. I am so very sorry to hear this story. I also find it a little disheartening that just because a driveway has not been shovelled that the city makes that assumption that no one lives there or cares to shovel. In my son's case as in many people's cases they could have been on holidays. Considering myself very lucky right now.

  • Sympathetic
    January 08, 2014 - 19:47

    Please keep in mind that there are many sides to each story. As the wife of a city plow operator, I hear of the abuse that many of our operators have to put up with during each shift from residents and it is not fair. I am confident that the operator didn't intentionally plow anyone in like that. As you can imagine, it is very difficult to keep track of the location of each driveway, especially when they have not been shovelled on a regular basis and the amount of snow we have had in a short time. Residents are complaining that the streets are not plowed so the men and women are doing their best to plow/push back wherever possible. In saying that, there is NO need for the 311 operator to treat anyone like that! After all, we pay all their salaries! Anyone who has had this type of response should contact their councillor to find out how to place a formal complaint. I am sure all the calls are "recorded for quality assurance". Did you all know that your insurance policy requires you to have someone check your home if you will be away for any more than 72 hours??? This includes shovelling, mowing the grass, and checking the interior of your home. This prevents this type of issue, along with preventing your home from being the target of thieves. Even after a claim, it is still your responsibility to make sure your home is accessible to adjusters, claims repair people, prevent further damage, and emergency response. I sympathize with you as a single parent and your situation, but the city has to be careful not to set a presidence of clearing private driveways when they get plowed in or they will never get to plow the streets. They have to investigate each situation individually and confirm the merit of each complaint.

  • Stuck for words
    January 08, 2014 - 18:31

    Mounding snow in from of any one house Because they thought it was not occupied is no excuse! In all the year I have lived in St Johns I have never heard of not bothering to clean out catch basins hoping that the snow will absorb the water, who is putting these NEW ideas forward , who is the new element here? Or new elements? Now we have a 5ft ice buffer in the driveway and basis may never be found again. Sack that call centre Person .

  • Stuck for words
    January 08, 2014 - 18:27

    Mounding snow in from of any one house Because they thought it was not occupied is no excuse! In all the year I have lived in St Johns I have never heard of not bothering to clean out catch basins hoping that the snow will absorb the water, who is putting these NEW ideas forward , who is the new element here? Or new elements? Now we have a 5ft ice buffer in the driveway and basis may never be found again. Sack that call centre Person .

  • Kimberly Myers-Schuh
    January 08, 2014 - 17:52

    Wow, I am apparently very, very lucky as I encountered the exact same situation at my son's rental home. He was away since December 16th and we knew that there would be snow in the driveway so made a call to have it cleared. The first operator told us it was like Mount Everest, so my cousin made arrangements to have another operator go over, he too said the same thing. I was told I need heavy equipment to remove the snow that clearly the city had pushed onto his driveway. I emailed his councilman whom was exceptional with his response and he forwarded my concern to the city. This was Monday night. The snow was cleared last night by the city, it took them 3 hours to remove it all. I am so very sorry to hear this story. I also find it a little disheartening that just because a driveway has not been shovelled that the city makes that assumption that no one lives there or cares to shovel. In my son's case as in many people's cases they could have been on holidays. Considering myself very lucky right now.

  • Happily Retired
    January 08, 2014 - 16:01

    What does Kathy Dunderdale have to do with this. Please try to stay on topic. Everything that happens in the world is not her fault.

  • linda Sheppard
    January 08, 2014 - 14:05

    What a sin..have a heart here City of St.Johns for gods sake..poor woman had a fire and has a small child too..this is just sad..maybe a local private contractor will take pity on her and dig her out for free...shameful...

  • Frustrated
    January 08, 2014 - 12:13

    “I haven’t got all the details of it yet, but on the surface of it, it certainly seems like a situation where we would go back and remove the excess snow from the property, yes.” .....well just do it and be done. As for the rude city employee....she needs to be reprimanded.....because no level of customer service training will change this employees attitude.... I know, I work with people like her.

  • Outraged by Ignorance
    January 08, 2014 - 11:58

    The city should have no rights to use a persons private property for a dump site for excess snow. Whether the house is currently occupied or otherwise. Do your job right for a change... dump the excess snow in the harbor, not on the property of the people who are paying your wages!! Mr. Mackey, what your address?? I have excess snow I would like to share with your front yard!!!

  • Snowed in.
    January 08, 2014 - 11:48

    God forbid that you be away on vacation; a little snow accumulate in your driveway; have the city use it as a snow dump and THEN your house catch fire! The city will have piled up so much snow that it would be impossible for the fire department to get anywhere near it! You can be sure that they wouldn't take any responsibility then! Sorry you were out of town: It's your own fault!

  • Jeff
    January 08, 2014 - 11:23

    The attitude ascribed to this 311 operator seems no different from many attitudes I've experienced in this province. I guess I'm not in Toronto any more.

  • Marshall Art
    January 08, 2014 - 10:59

    What's up with the rude, argumentative attitude from people like the 311 operator or the RNC officers who take calls from the public ? Phone the RNC at 2: 30 a:m to report a loud, profanity laced, drunken party on the street and you'll likely be told your tone of voice is not appreciated and you'll be asked for your name and address instead of the address of the loud drunks.

  • John Smith
    January 08, 2014 - 10:59

    I called the city several times last week, about two different matters....for the whole night there was no answer, the next morning I finally got through, and the guy who answered was short, and rude with me...ignorant....I was appalled, but not surprised....

    • catteau
      January 09, 2014 - 06:06

      The city's snow management is a disaster - but you know, I imagine that in the past few days the city's 311 staff have been at the front lines of EVERYONE's anger - and they have probably also been living in dark unheated houses that are piled under snow. Let's not blame them, they are just the messengers.

  • You'er Fired!
    January 08, 2014 - 10:54

    The Depot management needs a clearing out! We are paying your salaries and you talk like that Mr Mackey?!!! No Plan! No clue! Massive fail. Saying it like it is! Snow rage? Yes!

  • fogNL
    January 08, 2014 - 10:42

    I understand that snow clearing needs to happen, however, it should never ever be the city's policy to pile snow up on someone's driveway whether it is currently in use or not. There are numerous reasons why someone's driveway may not be cleared yet, find somewhere else to dump the snow.

  • Geri
    January 08, 2014 - 10:34

    Who do the City think they are talking to? This resident pays taxes to have the streets cleared but not to dump snow on her property whereby she will have to pay a contractor to work additional time to move snow put on HER property by the city. That is downright ridiculous. Why should a private citizen have to pay for street snow paid for by her and other citizens then dumped on her property??? The person who answered her inquiry from the City should be fired or given some sensitivity training in how to deal with inquiries from the public. Don't forget we are also paying HER salary.

  • Kyle
    January 08, 2014 - 10:13

    I've had similar experiences with 311. Called one night and spoke to a lady who was beyond rude and talked over me, then told me to call back during the week "cause this is the weekend and you can wait until Monday".

  • Joe 1
    January 08, 2014 - 10:12

    I would suggest that if the owner must pay to have it moved that they send it to the MAYORS address and see if he likes it!!!

  • Joe 1
    January 08, 2014 - 10:10

    I would suggest that if the owner must pay to have it moved that they send it to the MAYORS address and see if he likes it!!!

  • Doug Goodyear
    January 08, 2014 - 09:54

    Wow..hit them when they are down.. We'll done city workers...great excuses... Hey Mackey, great observation..sounds like a hardship situation... Too bad the house isn't in the Pearl, I am sure that the problem would have been corrected imeadiately...and without a fight..

  • Barry
    January 08, 2014 - 09:54

    Mackey, you are full of BS, twice in the past few wks I have had snow blown into my driveway that was clearly shoveled and in use. I talked to the city worker and he said its not his responsibility and he even covered in the fire hydrant that we had cleared out. When we called 311 the lady on the phone was dismissive and wasn't even listening to what I had to say. Everybodies property taxes went up this year we deserve better service.

  • Brett
    January 08, 2014 - 09:44

    @Thomas - after dealing with the city - the citizen should call Galgay. The city has no right to haphazardly appropriate land and dump on private property. While a councillor can't be the first point of contact (he's not a call centre) and most issues of this nature can be dealt with by the city - the councillor is there to deal with the mistakes and problems that arise from that process. The councillor is their representative to wade through the bureaucracy.

    • Thomas
      January 08, 2014 - 11:18

      Sorry Brett - In this case, by going to the media asking the common folk not to contact him he indeed became a part of the problem. In this case Galgay was representing the issues of public works and not the electorate. This guy has been riding around in snow plows, shaking hands, kissing babies, and grabbing the media at every opportunity he can get. The more he says, the less he does and the worse he looks. Similar to Dunderdale during the blackout. Representing Nalcor and not the people

  • Brett
    January 08, 2014 - 09:40

    I suggest you call your councillor Jonathon Galgay - forget the resign nonsense Steve said - he likely didn't know anything about this until the paper (or the paper would have written something about him in the article). In 2010 I chased a snowplow down the street after they plowed in snow up my front steps and buried a fire hydrant. They came back and dug out the hydrant after I told them that I had their license/ID and would be putting in a complaint to the city and fire department. I have been told by the city suck it up and it's my problem until I have called my councillor (Galgay) and appraised him of the situation. After that the city workers came and made amends.

  • Looks like a door to me.
    January 08, 2014 - 09:22

    Certainly an entrance is obvious, regardless of whether a driveway is there.. Snow might not get shoveled by owners for any number of reasons, including a hospital stay, etc. Look at the orientation and position of the house. It's obvious an entrance and perhaps a driveway. Go back and clear it..

  • Townie
    January 08, 2014 - 09:16

    The snow banks don't look as high as the ones around my house.

  • Dan
    January 08, 2014 - 08:57

    ‘That’s too bad. That’s your problem’. Sounds like the woman I spoke to when I called 311, a month ago. If you aren't a people person, stay off the damn phones!

  • Joe
    January 08, 2014 - 08:47

    Paul is Deputy City Manger of Public Works. This means he does his job the same way(ie. never thinks improvements in procedure are possible), but gets a higher pay. An example is flooding by the Ball Park yesterday. They knew that area would flood, but it had to actually flood before they would take action.

  • Bert
    January 08, 2014 - 08:10

    "assumed city crews figured the house is currently unoccupied, though how they knew she’s not sure". You assumed they knew then you questioned how they knew! I bet they did not know and all due respect to your situation you are no different than I who came home from nightshift dropping tired with no power and a busted pipe spewing water into my basement. It is not the town councils fault where I live that they buried my driveway with snow, that is what they do with no mal intent towards citizens as they clear the roads.

    • CommonCents?
      January 08, 2014 - 23:33

      The snow deposited on this lady's property was not residual snow left behind from plowing, it was an extremely large amount dumped onto the front lawn, and well into the driveway, the above picture doesn't do it justice. I believe they knew the house was vacant as this story has been well documented in the media since the fire on Dec. 22, she was merely stating that she could not say for sure if the plow operators knew the house was vacant, and was taken out of context. At what point does the city decide to do this to a taxpayers private property? Do they just say, "no ones been here for a while, looks like a great place to dump massive amounts of snow, who cares that it will turn to ice and be nearly impossible to move once someone needs to get into the house" This house will soon undergo a lengthy restoration, how does the city expect contractors to access the property with their vehicles and tools, and bring building supplies to the site? That's right, they don't expect it because they don't care. Not their problem, right? So yeah, your situation is no different than hers, she has water in her basement as well, from the fire fighters who put out the fire in her kitchen, which along with other parts of her house are blackened charred remains. She and her daughter were dropping tired well after this event 3 days before Xmas, scrambling for a place to stay with just the clothes on their backs, yes no different at all...

  • Gerry
    January 08, 2014 - 08:06

    Yep; I had the same problem with Revenue while in Quebec....was audited a couple years after we were posted one July from NB to Quebec. Went to Service Quebec when we arrived & informed them we were now living in Quebec. But Revenue Quebec did not take any taxes off that year. Ended up owing 8 grand. When I phoned the regional office in Matane & asked how I was suppose to pay off such a large debt at once, I was told "sucks to be you'...I was gob-smacked. Good friggin' thing I wasn't sitting across from the individual....so in my opinion, there seems to be zero training or SOP on tact, compassion, or just plain courtesy with civil service in this country when dealing with the public; but hey, I could be wrong.....

  • t
    January 08, 2014 - 08:05

    Our operators go along, and if they see evidence of a driveway, they don’t stack any snow,” he said. “The normal windrow from the plow would come off like it would in anybody’s driveway, but we don’t push snow up if there’s a driveway or a walkway or anything like that.” He should speak to the operators, snow is repeatedly blown and pushed into my cleared driveway. And I had the same difficulty when speaking to the 311 representative. She was very rude.

  • Carol
    January 08, 2014 - 08:01

    "Too bad that's. That's your problem" must be their policy this year. I was just home in St. John's for three weeks to spend Christmas with my parents. They have a small driveway on a crescent in kilbride so they spent a few hours moving snow off our front lawn to the side of the house to make room for me to park. When they got home later that day the snow plows had widened the street and dumped all the excess snow and large boulders of ice into our lawn/driveway. My mom called the city and was told "Too bad thats your problem. Maybe you should a house with a bigger driveway!" She was completely stunned. It just goes to show examples need to be set by our provinces leaders. If Cathy Dunderdale cannot show sympathy, empathy and support during this trying winter, what can we expect from city workers. Newfoundland prides itself on the friendliness of its people. Perhaps it's time for everyone to prove it

  • Jon
    January 08, 2014 - 07:59

    To Steve: This isn't even in Galgay's ward. Why should he resign? Maybe you would like to take on the job.

    • Thomas
      January 08, 2014 - 11:07

      Beg to differ. It has everything to do with Galgay as he is the council representative / chair of the public works committee

  • Brenda
    January 08, 2014 - 07:57

    Her house catches fire Dec 22, her five year old daughters Christmas gifts likely destroyed, no home for Christmas, and now this. Way to kick someone when they're down! For shame.

  • Snowman
    January 08, 2014 - 07:49

    I have to give the city credit as we are on a small cul-de-sac. Last week after the big snowfall the operator who came onto the street actually pushed back all the snow without filling in the already cleared driveways. A big thumbs up to this operator and the crew working this area of the city.

  • Dan
    January 08, 2014 - 07:37

    "She was absolutely rude and condescending." Sounds like she spoke to the same damn woman who I spoke to when I called 311. If you aren't a people person, get off the damn phone!

  • L. Locket
    L. Locket
    January 08, 2014 - 07:36

    Mackey has shown himself to not be up to the job of supervising snow clearing for the city, but this goes far beyond an inadequate job. This is the result of a lazy plow driver and his boss who supports him by blaming the victim. Not good enough Mackay, you are getting worse, not better! As for Galgay, he is always there for the on camera comments, but has yet to do anything useful that I've heard of!

  • Lilly
    January 08, 2014 - 07:35

    So if i go away on vacation or god forbid a family emergency for a few weeks I can expect to come home to a city built snow bank and its my responsibility to clear it??

  • Steve Pick
    January 08, 2014 - 07:29

    Interesting to see a fire hydrant equally buried in the photo. Is the city relying on the home owner to dig that out too?

  • Steve
    January 08, 2014 - 07:12

    Galgay, resign now. Thank you.

  • Chantal
    January 08, 2014 - 06:57

    ‘That’s too bad. That’s your problem’ Isn't that the official slogan of neo-liberal Conservatives everywhere?

  • Thomas
    January 08, 2014 - 06:43

    No Mackey, it's not a hardship situation. It is one where an outside worker used her driveway as a dumping ground for snow. This is not a simple plow back situation. You should not only remove the snow but phone her up and beg for forgiveness. I heard councilor Galgay on the media yesterday tell the electorate not to call him but call 311 as he would only redirect your concern to them. This response must be a part of the orientation package for new councilor's. This response is the same one I used to get when contacting a family member of his who was on council for years. I gave up asking for assistance. As for the worker on the 311 line. Be careful. The tax payer is your employer.

    • Leah
      January 08, 2014 - 08:56

      Thomas, AGREE WITH YOU TOTALLY !