Delay clearing Piapot Grid causes frustration

By Monday, a commuter Facebook page, “Highway #6 North of Regina,” had area residents in the RM of Lumsden venting their frustrations.

Travellers in the RM were posting that their four-wheel drives were struggling on the Piapot and other main roads in the area. Long-time area resident Darren Singer who lives off the Piapot grid, posted several messages on the page warning people not to drive on the primary grid and posted a message to the RM warning them of the safety risks.

Singer wrote to LMT, “I am 57 years old. I have been at this farm all my life. Driving now for over 40 years…Never seen this BAD!!! Without 4 Wheel drive, you can’t get through! Major concern for residents!!! Ambulance will not get through!!!” Singer said he contacted the RM but hadn’t heard back.

Cristina Crowe works at Chief Payepot School on the Piapot First Nation and needs to travel the road to get to work. She said the school had to close for two days as staff couldn’t get in. She drove on the grid Tuesday morning with a coworker in an attempt to drop things off and said she wished she had stayed home. “We have never had to close because of the RM road. I understand all graders were busy but geez.” Crowe said that usually, the roads are done quickly and assumed the delay was because all roads were in similar shape.

Aimee Bertrand is also concerned about the delay in clearing the roads and says this isn’t the first time this has happened. “It was like this last year too…if a fire truck or ambulance were needed, you’d be screwed.” Bertrand says it has happened many times. “I’m not asking (for) same day service as I know that’s unrealistic, but we def(initely) went days!”

Reeve Kent Farago explained the difficulty the graders were having. “The snow is really wet and what’s happened is the ground isn’t frozen yet. Because of that the graders are sinking into the road so it’s extremely difficult to clear we can’t clear it like we do a regular snowfall.”

Nathan Pelzer lives off the grid road and was defensive and sympathetic to the efforts of the RM and critical of those criticizing the RM. “Not interested in bashing the RM. They are doing their best. In 30+ years of living out here, I’ve never seen a snowstorm like this either. Nathan suggested we “write a story on how everyone on Facebook all of a sudden is an RM foreman and snow removal expert…”

Other residents in the area reported that the Edenwold and Foxleigh grids and Highway 99 were also in bad shape. The Saskatchewan Department of Highways maintains Highway 99.

RM of Lumsden Assistant Administrator Krystal Strong said they have been clearing roads on a location and situation basis, “It’s been a real struggle the last couple of days because we’ve gotten so much snow over the whole RM, and pretty well everyone feels the same way, ‘when are they going to get down my road it could be an emergency situation, emergency vehicles may or may not be able to get to me.” Strong said the RM was trying to get to places where the roads were blocked before getting to the primary roads and that graders were working from dawn to dusk and only stopped because it was too dark to continue.

The RM posted a message on their Facebook account acknowledging people’s frustration, explaining the situation and asking for patience.

The RM’s acting EMO coordinator Cody Jordison said there would be discussions on improving the system moving forward. He explained the system currently in place, “The public works department are out checking on the roads. They check main arteries and school bus routes first as well as listening to complaints to determine where to respond to first. As for emergencies, if we hear about a situation we make it a priority and dedicate all available resources to helping.”

By Tuesday, the grader had made it to the Piapot grid, and by Wednesday, the RM told LMT, “Our Public Works Department has advised us that all roads are now passable. They have not necessarily all been plowed (for various reasons) but they are all open.”

Jennifer Argue, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Last Mountain Times