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Kelly Ryback - Waste More, Get Less

Kelly Ryback, guest columnist, shares his experience with city hall.
Kelly Ryback shares his dealings with city hall.

Guest Columnist - Winnipeg Tribune

Winnipeg, December 28, 2023 - That’s what we are getting from our current city administration and departments. Senior management does not have the necessary problem-solving skills and creativity to be able to deliver value to the citizens and businesses. To think they could achieve more with less is a fairy tale. The problem and the solution is leadership.

The city categorizes roads as P1 (main arteries – Portage, Main, Henderson, etc), P2 (feeder roads, connectors) and P3 (residential, bays/cul-de-sacs, etc). Recently the main newspaper reported on icy conditions on P2s that did not receive sanding and were unsafe. But many P3s get OVER-SANDED. Much of this practice is unnecessary and wasteful. I and a neighbour have documented and reported this issue several times over the past six years. Through three Public Works Standing Policy Committees, three ward city councillors and two mayors. No action despite the attempts of two of the ward councillors (Klein and Duncan).

I am providing you with the string of communications over this week starting with my letter to the editor (published Dec. 18), a follow-up letter (unpublished) then emails to city council, a response from Public Works, concluding nd my follow-up to city council about the Public Works response.

If you feel as I do, write your city councillor.

Letter to the Editor, December 18, 2023 (published)

Too much sand for some

Re: Stress soars on suddenly slick suburban streets – Dec 14

P3 roads (small bays, cul-de-sacs,crescents)get sanded when it isn’t required while P2’s are slippery and not sanded. Our bay and many in the area received sand but the road was bare earlier this year. P3s are sanded far too frequently. We once got sanded five times in ten days which included twice on one day when the road was bare. Zero precipitation during that period. Sanding has occurred, only to have it snow a few hours later, deeming the exercise worthless.

Our neighbourhood lobbied the ward councillor, the chair of Public Works, and the CAO extensively over the past several years to reduce sanding on P3 roads. I have addressed this issue many times as a delegate before council and committees. Finally last winter our bay received minimal sanding compared to others in the neighbourhood and we were fine. We even thought we were a pilot project but that was not to be as the old practices returned this winter.

There were times we swept up sand off our bay, carted it over to the nearby P2 4-way stop and spread it onto the P2 intersection where it was needed.

The unnecessary sanding of P3s (and sidewalks at times) is not only wasteful but creates several other problems. The sand kills boulevard grass. The sand clogs up catch basins which results in street flooding during spring thaw and heavy rains. Sand makes its way into the water treatment plants which cause further problems. The sand also darkens the surface so additional heat from the sun is absorbed, thereby melting the snow and ice at lower temperatures which results in a sloppy mess. That mess then freezes which creates an icy surface.

Please reduce the sanding on P3s so that money can be saved and so that more sanding and snow clearing can take place on P1s and P2s when necessary. And clear the sloppy messes on roads and sidewalks. Something is broken and it needs to be fixed. Does street maintenance even pay attention to weather forecasts?

Letter to the Editor, December 18 (unpublished) : Thank you for publishing my letter today (Too much sand for some). Ironically earlier today our street was sanded when it wasn’t necessary. Street sanding is just one line item in the city budget. How much waste is there overall?

Calgary city council just approved a property tax increase of 7.8%. What is in store for Winnipeg, 3.5%, 5%, 7.5%?

Email to City Council and select media reporters, December 18

Subject: Bays Sanded in Westwood – Unbelievable

Hello Mr. Mayor, Councillors and Media

My neighbour and I have been advocating for a reduction in P3 residential street sanding for years. My related letter to the Winnipeg Free Press editor was published today. And today my bay and many others in the neighbourhood received sanding.

The roads were NOT slippery. The sanding was unnecessary. Sanding is just one budgetary line item fraught with waste. How bad is it overall throughout the city? What are the financial impacts due to waste, poor decision making, and poor performance? How can you justify a 3.5% PLUS property tax increase when waste and poor performance is prevalent and NOT being addressed?

I will sit down with anyone who is in a position of influence to discover waste and poor performance in order to identify opportunities for improvements and savings.


Kelly Ryback

Response Received from Public Works, December 20

(Someone forwarded my city council email to Public Works)

Dear Mr. Ryback,

Thank you for your email.

We inspected Pontiac Bay yesterday (Tuesday) and found it was adequately sanded (not over-sanded or sand spread onto the boulevard and only at or before stop locations).

The street is snow-packed (no bare pavement) and was sanded along with all other Priority 2 and Priority 3 streets on Monday, December 18 during the day.

As per the Council-approved policy, the use of treated sand for ice control purposes, “shall result in a minimization of material quantities used, consistent with maintaining a reasonable level of safety to motorists and pedestrians”. The minimization is accomplished by reduced application rates. On Priority 3 streets, the application of sand shall be restricted to "spotting" or short bursts at locations where vehicles are required to stop or reduce speed, such as controlled intersections, pedestrian corridors and crosswalks, railway crossings, turns and inclines.

We have also looked into our 311 data and found only one excessive sand complaint this season, which was also found as adequate (not over-sanded and only at or before a stop location), see photo below.

Please feel free to contact 311 for concerns about excessive sanding.

Provided to the Winnipeg Tribune by Kelly Ryback
Provided to the Winnipeg Tribune by Kelly Ryback

Customer Service

Public Works Department

My response to City Council on Public Works email, December 20

Dear Mayor and Councillors

I received the attached response to my email regarding unnecessary sanding on many P3s, particularly bays and cut-de-sacs. The response I received is an example WHY some city services are poor, why there is material/resources/financial waste and deficits.

The provided picture is NOT of Pontiac Bay. The location in the picture looks to be around Country Club Boulevard. I was driving in the Country Club Blvd area on Sunday. The bays and side streets were not slippery. Sanding was not required on Monday. Why would an inspector provide a picture of a different road when the inspection was on Pontiac Bay?

The quantity of complaints is irrelevant.

A few residents of the area shoveled and swept sand OFF the road on Pontiac Bay on Monday. Therefore how could the sanding on Pontiac Bay be deemed adequate if most of the sand in question was removed prior to inspection? If adequate, the road was in the condition it was prior to the sanding on Monday. This would indicate the sanding on Monday was unnecessary.

Enough sand gets tracked onto the small P3s from vehicles as they pull off the P2s, onto the P3s.

City council, at best you are being misled. You cannot make the right, hard choices if you are not provided with the truth. There are far too many 'yes people'. I refer to them as bobbleheads. Those are ones who are far too agreeable, don't challenge, who say and report what you want to hear and to protect themselves. The workplace culture throughout the city needs to be better. We need more 'can do'ers' and 'go-getters'.

Attitudes such as 'don't rock the boat', 'don't get efficient or it'll cost us hours/jobs/overtime', 'we've always done it this way' lead to failure.

The citizens of Winnipeg deserve better. We NEED to receive better. You NEED TO DO BETTER! Rock the boat. Shake it up. Let's see some real hard decisions and real leadership.

Thanks for your time.

Kelly Ryback

In conclusion: I didn’t even get into the ensuing spring clean-up. Crews comprised of a water truck and three street sweepers tackle the streets. There could be additional savings by reducing the crew if there was less sand on the roads. Then maybe a fall street sweep could happen again which would alleviate sewer catch basin clogging. Fall street cleaning was cancelled by Bowman & Co. in his first term.

That’s another bang-your-head-against-the-wall-exercise.

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