Regina city manager says 'logic, empathy' should be applied to snow removal policy

Al Bodnarchuk says that after the city removed the snow, it was left piled in his yard and in the street around his truck. (Submitted by Al Bodnarchuk - image credit)
Al Bodnarchuk says that after the city removed the snow, it was left piled in his yard and in the street around his truck. (Submitted by Al Bodnarchuk - image credit)

A Regina resident who faced a $424 charge for city snow removal says the fee has since been waived.

Al Bodnarchuk told CBC last week he can't physically shovel his corner-lot property in the Cathedral neighbourhood due to multiple health impairments.

While the 58-year-old received snow-clearing help from a volunteer through the neighbourhood snow angels program, he said it wasn't good enough for the city.

Bodnarchuk said he received a non-compliance notice on Jan. 9, giving him 48 hours notice to further clear the sidewalk. 

After calling his local councillor and the city to explain, Bodnarchuk said a city crew cleared snow around his home, leading to a $424 charge added to his property taxes, which is standard policy procedure.

"I told them, 'I don't have money to get somebody to do this and I'm too sick to do it.' And they said, 'Well you don't have a choice. You got 48 hours notice.' They weren't interested at all," Bodnarchuk recalled last week.

The Regina resident also said the crew pushed some of the snow it was clearing onto the street, which continues to block his truck parked in an accessible spot.

"This is a complete and direct violation and hypocrisy about the city's snow removal policy to help people with accessibility problems such as wheelchairs, strollers," he said Wednesday.

"They've actually created a worse hazard."

WATCH | Regina man on long-term disability says he's unable to pay city bill for sidewalk-clearing: 

Changes to Regina's Clean Property Bylaw came into effect in 2022. It mandates that all property owners in the city clear their own walks and nearby sidewalks — to the edges of the sidewalk and as close to the concrete as possible — within 48 hours of a snowfall.

After a year of only giving warnings to educate the public, this is the first winter where the bylaw has been enforced

Bodnarchuk told CBC News Wednesday he received a call from a city bylaw officer on Feb. 16 telling him the charge had been reversed.

However, he said he has not received documentation of the change. He added that the city has not indicated whether it would clear the remaining snow from its previous removal job.

Bodnarchuk said he is looking into filing a human rights complaint related to the matter.

Snow issue resolved elsewhere

Ted Jaleta/Submitted
Ted Jaleta/Submitted

City crews were out, however, on Feb. 16 to clear snow rows created by plows in front of Ted Jaleta's house in south Regina.

The 68-year-old said the action came a day after sharing his concerns with CBC News.

"Massive machinery showed up and not only (cleared) my entire sidewalk, but the entire neighborhood," he said.

"So they cleaned up. I was quite pleased and and also they left a message, regretting for the circumstances they caused, and I received a lot of from happy messages from my neighbours."

Jaleta previously told CBC News he called city councillor Cheryl Stadnichuk to see if the city could clear the heavy, packed snow that was left near his curb after street plowing. 

He said the snow made it difficult for him to safely leave out his recycling and garbage bins. Jaleta was also worried about the drain beneath the snow was being blocked.

After the complaint, the city served the 68-year-old a non-compliance warning for not meeting bylaw requirements.

"I hope that this is actually a lesson for everyone," said Jaleta, who wants the city to review the bylaw.

"My message to the city is please, pay attention. For seniors, for the most vulnerable."

Logic, empathy trumps policy: city manager

Adam Bent/CBC
Adam Bent/CBC

Regina city manager Niki Anderson addressed some of the snow removal challenges and, albeit not by name, Bodnarchuk's case on Wednesday. 

She said that while bylaw officers followed protocol, through to charging the homeowner for snow removal on their property taxes, policies "are not an excuse to get in the way of logic and empathy."

"In general, do we want people to be shovelling their sidewalks? Of course we do," Anderson said.

"(But) when our employees are faced with a situation that does not seem to make any sense, and that doesn't show what I would say is empathy, it's problematic."

In this case, the homeowner had received the services of a volunteer snow angel, they just hadn't fully complied to the specific width requirement of the bylaw. 

Anderson said she tried to reach the affected resident Wednesday morning, but did not get a hold of him. 

Additionally, the city manager said her internal instructions to staff is that when they have a question, if something doesn't seem to make sense, it should be "elevated up" to leadership. 

"Every year we do a snow report and we will be looking at it then, but I don't think this is an automatic call for an immediate change to (the bylaw)," she said.

"It's more about looking at the individual situation and doing what's right."

The city told CBC News last week that the snow clearing bylaw is intended to create a more accessible city for everyone, whether on foot or using a mobility device.

If someone is not able to shovel, it suggests reaching out to family or friends, or signing up for a snow angel. The city notes there are 11 community associations that offer volunteer-led programs.

Coun. Andrew Stevens told CBC News last week that he plans to put a motion forward to revisit the bylaw when the winter snow removal budget is before council.