Town engineer responds to complaints that snow crews aren’t clearing parks & trails fast enough

Newest member of Sackville’s snow-clearing fleet. The contest to win a ride in the truck by submitting the best name for it closed on Feb. 12. (Photo: Town of Sackville)

Town Engineer Dwayne Acton says Sackville’s 10-member snow-clearing crew has been working punishingly long hours this winter to fulfill their number one priority: keeping streets cleared and sidewalks cleaned throughout each of four major storms in the space of five weeks.

“It’s not easy,” Acton told town council on Monday as he described the chaotic conditions that arise when big storms bury the town under 50 cm of snow.

“We have these major storms, one after the other after the other,” Acton said, his voice rising in frustration.

“Everybody is up to here with the snow and people are pushing snow on everybody else and out onto the streets and out onto the sidewalks and then, we’re trying to clear those streets and sidewalks for the safety of the public.”

He was responding to e-mails complaining that crews had been slow to clear parks and access to trails.

“In this past storm, if you remember Sunday was beautiful, meanwhile we just had 50 cm of snow dumped on us and we weren’t able to get everything open and there were some people who weren’t happy about that,” Acton said.

“After we’ve done the clearing of the streets and the sidewalks and the blowing of the downtown, then we can get the Waterfowl Park and the [trails around] the retention pond open,” he added.

Punishing overtime hours

Town Engineer Dwayne Acton addressing council on Monday

Acton said that during the last major storm, his 10-member crew began work at 3:30 a.m. on Thursday.

“They ran twelve-and-a-half hours before they were able to go home and get a rest; then they started again the next morning at 3:30 and they ran fifteen-and-a-half hours straight clearing snow throughout the entire storm so that our fire department can get to any emergencies if they happen,” Acton said, adding that the plowing also helped people get to and from work.

“Nine-and-a-half hours Saturday, they worked straight through and then followed up by anywhere from four to six hours on Sunday to tidy up that storm.”

Acton pointed out that all but eight of those hours were overtime.

“That’s just one storm, that’s what our guys go through every time we have to do a major event like that,” he said.

He added that while keeping roads and streets clear is quite a challenge, sidewalks can be even harder.

“We’re plowing and trying to blow snow, three to four to five feet of snow, it’s hard enough to know where the sidewalk is let alone trying to get a blower through it,” he said.

“We can’t push it with the blade so our blower is going about a quarter of the speed, so it takes us four times longer than we normally would to do sidewalks.”

Acton listed other areas that have to be cleared including the Town Hall, Bill Johnstone Park, the Civic Centre, the Visitor Information Centre, the Public Works garage, 14 sewage lift stations, the water treatment plants and more than 300 fire hydrants.

Downtown cleanup

“You all saw how much snow was [in the] downtown after a big storm like that, we can’t go two, three, four days with those banks like that,” Acton said.

“So then what do we do? We have to turn around and we’ve got to try to do what we call a downtown cleanup.”

Acton said the town hired 10 to 12 dump trucks to haul the snow away over one-and-a-half to two days.

Councillor Bruce Phinney

“So, unless council is prepared to hire more staff and provide more equipment or hire it out at more of an expense, I don’t see any other way than what we’ve been doing for many, many years and that is prioritize on roads and streets and sidewalks followed by our park properties,” he said.

“Mr. Acton, I want to thank you and the boys for all the work that you do,” said Councillor Bruce Phinney.

“I know what it’s like because I did the same kind of work for almost 40 years,” he added.

Phinney said there are always people who aren’t satisfied with snow clearing, often because they don’t understand what’s involved and how long it takes.

“If they had the opportunity of maybe riding with one of the boys, maybe they could go out at 3:30 in the morning and stay until twelve-and-a-half hours,” he added.

“Then they might have a better understanding of exactly what you and your boys do.”

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11 Responses to Town engineer responds to complaints that snow crews aren’t clearing parks & trails fast enough

  1. BESTPAR says:

    I had the pleasure of working for the TOS PW Dept for 17 yrs and I will tell you all,,,that the TOS PW crew is the best around…go to Amherst, Moncton and see how their plow operations are…pathetic compared to ours The TOS has been spoiled for years with the excellent snow removal our little 10 man crew had to deal with…and will continue to do so.. When ppl called to complain…I always felt like telling them…”if you think you can do better..then you plow the roads” but as an employee I could not…BUT NOW I AM RETIRED I CAN TELL THOSE WHO COMPLAIN ABOUT SACKVILLE’S SNOW REMOVAL…IF YOU THINK YOU CAN DO BETTER..BE MY GUEST!!! The TOS crew does an excellent job…and the roads and cleanup come first before the Parks, it should be…

  2. Thilo Joerger says:

    We certainly always appreciated the work the snow removal crews do in this town. No other town I have seen can rival Sackville in this regard. The complaints betray privileged, selfish and thoughtless folk who might be well advised to take out some of their precious time and do as Mr. Phinney and BESTPAR suggest.

  3. Karen Wells says:

    My husband worked for 30yrs for the DOT and I can tell you that it isn’t a piece of cake being out there in a storm, especially with the amount of snow we have gotten this year . I have also been a resident of Sackville all my life and can’t say I have EVER been disappointed with the TOS crews. People need to relax and realize that it is more important to get the main streets cleared before worrying about someone wanting too go skiing. These people are home in bed sleeping while this crew is out there clearing the main roads. Thanks to all the plow operators out there. It can be an ungrateful job but know there are many that are very appreciative ❤️

  4. Ross Thomas says:

    As one of the “complainees”, I can attest that the complaint was not that the Town staff aren’t working hard- I am well aquainted with the misery of working through the night and admire their dedication. But sidewalk clearing is not adequate- the streets are bare and dry and the sidewalks have 5 cm or more of mushy snow, often with underlying ice. Pedestrians are forced to take to the roadways with cars that still are exceeding the speed limits. This state of affairs can exist for several days after a snowfall, and car-pedestrain collisions don’t end well for pedestrians.
    My suggestion is that the Town prioritize pedestrian safety over vehicular convenience, and put at least equivalent effort into sidewalk clearance as they do road clearance.
    And yes, I would like to see recreational venues such as Beech Hill Park, the Walker Road trails and the Waterfowl park made accessible as soon as possible, given the heavy useage of these facilities, but recognize that all the Rink’s parking lots need first to be cleared down to pavement in case someday, sometime, it needs to be used as a warming center.

  5. BESTPAR says:

    The TOS has two (2) sidewalk plows to clear all town sidewalks…there are many many miles to clear. These machines do break down so then one machine is left…you cannot expect these sidewalks to be 100% clear all the time. These machines sit up higher and with a blower on the front, have a tendency to not plow with a lot of down pressure, therefore leaving some snow behind, plus these machines are small and do not push through the snow like the hough, etc do…it takes a lot of extra time to clear all sidewalks.
    They do the downtown areas first then up towards Middle Sackville, etc.

    The TVMCC is a designated as a warming center in case of an emergency under the Towns EMO policy and therefore the pk lot should be cleared before any recreational facility. You never know when it might be needed!

  6. marc says:

    Bruce’s original posting reported complaints “that [TOS] crews had been slow to clear parks and access to trails” and, inferentially, that they were perhaps spending too much time on roads and sidewalks. I do a great deal of walking on both sidewalks and trails in Middle Sackville and pay close attention to their clearing. Some observations:

    1) In general, street plowing on Main in Middle Sackville is far better than plowing on the sidewalks. I take this in large measure as due to the unevenness of the walks themselves… and also to the lack of responsibility shown by private local driveway plowing services, who routinely leave large piles of snow at the end of drives, on the adjacent walks. I’ve lived in a number of snow-belt cities and towns in Canada and the US; Sackville is the first one in which I’ve lived where individual property owners were *not* responsible for clearing the walks in front of their properties. While it’s nice to have this service from the Town, I think that the current state of the plowing on walks is evidence that we take no ownership/responsibility for this chore. The Town *could* be devoting its resources to other needs — perhaps more to those parks and trails? — if all of us pitched in and saw to clearing our own stretches of sidewalk! Everyone would benefit!

    2) I’m not sure who is responsible for grooming the Marsh Trail (the old CN right-of-way) through Middle Sackville, but I would like to commend them for the stellar job they’ve done to date this winter! Last winter, it was solid ice and inaccessible for over two months; this year — save for the bit between the TRHS parking lot and the trail head on the north side of the TCH (which is an invigorating slog, put nicely!) — the trail is heavenly. Nicely packed snow, very walk-able in good boots. I’ve seen evidence that walkers (with/without dogs), cross-country skiers, and snowmobilers [sigh] are all enjoying the trail. Thank you and please keep up the good work!


    • BESTPAR says:

      Go to Moncton and see how the sidewalks are there…and it’s supposed to be the homeowners responsibility there to clean the sidewalks in front of their house…most ppl do not and you see ppl walking on the roads all the time.

      Also…the Trans Canada Trail is not to be used as a walking trail in the winter..for snowmobilers only.

      • marc says:


        I have no desire to get into a war of words here. I live next door to a person who works for the town and I think *very highly* of what the PW does here. Truly.

        That said, I think I need to make a couple of things clearer than they were in my original comment:

        1) Sidewalks in Moncton are a nightmare. Agree completely. But that’s not the issue here. Because they are a problem there isn’t *necessarily* an argument for doing things the way Sackville does it; rather, it is an indication that some (many?) property owners in Moncton don’t take the law seriously. That’s an enforcement issue. In many places where I’ve lived, property owners were liable if they failed to clear their walks by a specified interval of time following a snowstorm. The municipality would have Public Works clear the offending walk and then the owner was billed or a lien placed. There are always those who refuse to abide, but again, we create laws for the majority, not the outliers.

        2) Assuming we are talking about the same trail, I’m mystified by your statement that the “Trans Canada Trail is not to be used as a walking trail in the winter..for snowmobilers only.” I’ve never seen *any* indication on the signs on the trail that usage by walkers is not allowed/advised during the winter. Nor is there any such limitation mentioned in the Town’s “Nature Trails” document ( Finally, according to the same document, the only permitted uses on The Great Trail are walking and cycling.

        There does seem to be some ambiguity about this, though, since another document ( does mention snowmobiling (click on the trail, and an “Information” box pops up with permitted activities). Parenthetically, I would add that signage and all the above sources make clear that the trail is not to be used by off-road/all-terrain vehicles.

        But again, none of these sources give any hint that hikers/walkers are not welcome on the trail in any season. If you have information that states otherwise, I’d love for you to share it.

        Thanks for listening,

        – marc

  7. Kata List Productions says:

    No complaints just appreciation for these terrific workers out there…. if people are retired financially comfy and fit – such as Ross Thomas – pick up a shovel or snow blower and get to work…. what’s stopping you man…?

  8. Roopen Majithia says:

    Always impressed how well Sackville does in relation to other towns and cities when it comes to snow removal. Also appreciative of the fact that the some of the trails are now being cleared as well, given that was not always the case (I know since I have been walking dogs in the waterfowl park for well over a decade now). Could it be done faster? Sure, but I suspect the pandemic has made more of us get out for walks, etc., which perhaps could be what the frustration is at least in part about. I’m just glad it’s being done at all…thanks and keep up to good work!

  9. Wayne Feindel says:

    Enjoy the wonderful work that Sackville snow crews do. Wait till you have to clear the snow and maintain roads for ENTITY 40.
    Remember the increased services the province claims we are going to enjoy. DORCHESTER WORK CREW IS ONE AND SOMETIMES TWO. Can’t be done any cheaper than that. Any one check how many kilometres of roads you are going to be responsible to keep up? Even Fredericton does not know because of New Boundaries.

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