Original Published on Aug 10, 2022 at 10:30

By Sean Oliver, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

For several years, the MD of Pincher Creek’s public works department has provided maintenance on residents’ private driveways as requested. This maintenance has included grading gravel and mowing during the summer and snow removal in the winter.

The MD has official policy outlining prices and procedures for grading and snowplowing, but nothing on mowing. As such, a revised corporate policy was brought forward for review during the July 12 regular council meeting.

The new policy would lump grading, mowing and plowing together under the title of maintenance. 

The cost of snowplowing would remain $200 per hour, with a minimum charge of $100; mowing would be set at $250 per hour with a minimum half-hour charge. One hour of grading would remain free of charge. 

The policy would require a signed waiver form from the resident and a passed inspection from public works to ensure the driveway meets standards of safety and accessibility.

Despite the signed waiver and inspection, public works superintendent Eric Blanchard said providing maintenance to private driveways is a headache the MD could go without.

“It doesn’t matter what waiver you get them to sign, a major incident on private property is going to lead to legal action,” he said.

Requiring operators to service private driveways on top of their regular duties, he continued, isn’t worth the stress.

“This is something we’ve been talking about for the last three or four years — those driveways and snow removal are creating a lot of stress to the operator and a lot of frustration to the landowner because the expectation is when they request it it’s going to be done right away. Most times it’s not possible,” Blanchard said.

“The combination of both factors is really frustrating, to be honest.”

Coun. John MacGarva agreed the liability concern was significant, and expecting operators to perform services on private driveways was a bit unreasonable — though if the MD decided to discontinue maintenance it should phase it out gradually.

“It seems to me you’re just too busy for some of this stuff,” Coun. MacGarva said. “It’s clearly not a moneymaker, looking at the rates. We’d almost want to let folks know so they can make some other arrangements.”

 “With a bit of notice to people, it’d be a nice thing to back out of. In many cases it’s probably a win-win, but in some it’s probably not,” he added.

Dropping private mowing and snowplowing from public works was understandable, said Coun. Harold Hollingshead, but he felt keeping the grading was important.

“The grading, I think, is an important piece for a lot of people that don’t have the equipment,” he said. “That’s something that’s going to be hard to take away because that’s the one thing that you get is a one-hour grade per year for free.”

While recognizing that the situation causes some issues for operators, Reeve Rick Lemire said the MD needs to continue offering maintenance services to residents that require it.

“I’m a big advocate of leaving it the way it is,” he said. “In my division, there are a lot of retired farmers living on acreages with no equipment around. It can be a logistic nightmare at times, but we’re spending how much per person for Beaver Mines? And these guys can’t even get their driveway done? I don’t agree with that.”

Though residents have the option of hiring private contractors to grade, mow and plow their driveways, Reeve Lemire said such an arrangement would be expensive. Providing maintenance, he continued, is a service the MD should be willing to offer its ratepayers.

“I think it’s the least we can do for our people who have lived in this MD for probably 80 years and have paid taxes and have gotten nothing out of it, and they’re still paying for it — it’s not like they’re getting it for free,” he added. “We’ve got to show something to those people.”

“We’re in the business of providing a service to our ratepayers,” added Coun. Dave Cox. “What do you do to the ratepayers when you’re trying to save a few dollars?”

Council decided to defer a decision on the maintenance policy until its next meeting, which will be held Tuesday, Aug. 23, 6 p.m. in council chambers.

This item reprinted from Shootin’ the Breeze, Pincher Creek, Alberta