Storm prompts some changes in Woolwich
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Storm prompts some changes in Woolwich

Last week’s snowstorm and whiteouts have Woolwich refining how it handles measures such as road closures.

The township will be looking for better coordination with the Region of Waterloo and police, for instance, noted chief administrative officer David Brenneman as council met Monday night.

The first major storm of the season hit the townships fairly hard Dec. 15, and rolled into the weekend. Whiteouts on township roads saw police respond to more than a dozen collisions Thursday morning, with conditions forcing the closure of several roads.

By early afternoon, Waterloo Regional Police had closed the highway between Elmira and Waterloo, setting up roadblocks at Arthur Street and Listowel Road as well as the roundabout near St. Jacobs. Likewise, Northfield Drive was closed at the Conestogo intersection of Sawmill Road and at the University Avenue end in Waterloo.

Also closed were intersections at Hawkesville Road and Northside Drive, Herrgott Road and Ament Line and Herrgott Road and Lobsinger Line.

Communication between officials at the region, regional police and the township’s fire department and roads crews could have been better, said Brenneman.

“Things didn’t work exactly to plan.”

Tweaks are now underway to improve communications, including doing a better job of informing the public about closures, detours and storm-related delays.

Listowel Road and Regional Road 85 is just one of the major routes that was closed by police Dec. 15 as the first severe taste of winter hit the region hard, leading to many closed roads, car accidents, and zero visibility on numerous rural roads. [Whitney Neilson / The Observer]

The storm was also the season’s first big test of sidewalk snow-clearing services in Elmira, with the township receiving a number of complaints.

Director of engineering and planning Dan Kennaley noted a number of factors were in play, including continuous snowfalls, high winds, drifting and equipment breakdowns.

“We had all of that in spades over a couple of days,” said Kennaley, noting last Thursday’s “extreme event” posed challenges for road crews and the sidewalk snow-clearing contractor alike due to the significant amount of snow and the driving winds over a few days.

While some residents may have been frustrated with the delays, crews were fighting a “losing battle” as the snow continued to fall. He reminded residents the sidewalk contractor has up to 24 hours after the snow stops to clear the walkways, adding sidewalks are cleared on a priority basis, including school routes and emergency corridors.

The township has, however, already made some changes to the routing schedule used by the contractor, he said.

Also related to the heavy snowfall, clerk Val Hummel said the township will now be ticketing and towing vehicles parked on the road during the ban period for on-street parking, having had a warning period after changing the hours in its on-street parking bylaw.

With the new schedule, there is a discrepancy between township (4:30-9 a.m., Dec. 1 to Apr. 1) and regional hours (2:30-6 a.m., year round), she added, noting some people are unclear about which roads are regional ones. A good rule of thumb, she said, is that if the road leads in and out of the township, it’s probably a regional one. Examples include Arthur Street, Northfield Drive, Church Street, Sawmill Road, Katherine Street and Fountain Street.

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