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City to review snowstorm response, cleanup

A snow plow hits the road amid a freezing rain warning in Toronto, Jan. 28, 2013. CITYNEWS

After a storm of complaints about the cleanup following Friday’s snowstorm, the city is launching a review of the response to the storm.

It will also consider whether a snow emergency should have been declared.

“In retrospect, we may have wanted to do that,” said Coun. Denzil Minnan-Wong, the public works chair.

“If I knew the circumstances now, I think we all would have acted differently.”

He also noted that emergency is “a pretty strong word.”

“If we could find language that conveys the importance of keeping the streets clear, without necessarily thinking that we’re going to have tanks rolling through the city, I think there’s a middle ground to be reached there.”

The city can declare a snow emergency if five centimetres fall and the head of transportation advises it and the mayor approves.

During a snow emergency, it is illegal to park on a snow route. It may result in a fine and towing.

Part of the decision not to declare a snow emergency was because there was a forecast for only one storm, the city said.

“We knew that there wasn’t a second event coming,” Minnan-Wong said. “We knew that over the weekend that the temperatures were going to fall. All those things indicated that a lot of that show was going to be removed.”

Minnan-Wong said the biggest concern was the bus and streetcar delays caused by parked cars.

“That’s just not acceptable to me,” he said. “Those individuals who were selfish and who did that, I think they should be punished and fined,” he said.

The councillor said that money was not the issue.

“I don’t think that there’s a price tag on the inconvenience and the anger that people feel when you have a car parked that’s stopping hundreds of people that might be on a streetcar.”

Minnan-Wong said the city responded well but there is room for improvement.

“There were some exceptions where service standards weren’t met and we need to address those gaps,” he said.

He also noted that 311 helpline was overwhelmed.

“Service shouldn’t break down, just right at the time when we need it the most.

The review will address the overloaded helpline and whether the city should have declared a snow emergency.