BONNYVILLE – Bright orange flags can now be purchased online from the MD of Bonnyville to identify private driveways where owners are seeking the assistance of public works crews to remove snow.
At a cost of $45, property owners can purchase the snow plow flags online or at one of six locations throughout the MD. Unlike previous years, however, flags will not be available through the Public Works building, as it is closed to the public due to COVID-19 measures.
Purchasing a flag entitles a property owner to 15 minutes of snow plow time after public roads and highways have been completed by municipal crews.
Any additional time beyond the 15 minutes will be charged out at municipal government rates, according to the MD of Bonnyville’s bylaw.
When residents use their flags for driveway plowing, they are required to call the MD to let know a flag will be put out. Residents must provide their phone number, email address and rural address when purchasing a flag.
Flags can be picked up at the MD of Bonnyville’s Admin office, Mack’s Lock and Key in Cherry Grove, the Esso Car Wash in Cold Lake, Poacher’s Corner in Glendon, The Iron River General Store and Northern Lights Truck Stop at Highway 55 and 892.
Hardship flags remain offline
During the MD of Bonnyville’s regular council meeting held on Nov. 12, three of the four councillors present voted to keep ‘hardship flag’ applications offline.
The hardship flag program offered by the MD provides rural residents experiencing a life hardship access to the Hardship Snow Removal Program.
A ‘hardship’ described by the MD policy states, “A circumstance or life condition that renders a rural resident(s) unable to perform snow removal at their place of residence.”
Although ratepayers are able to apply and pay for regular flags online through the MD’s website, administration recommended to council members that hardship flags not be included in the online process due to the sensitive personal information required for the application.
Outlined in the meeting agenda, it stated “Administration felt that this information should not be shared via an online application and is requesting any hardship application be submitted in-person to remove the security liability associated with sharing this personal information online.”
Coun. Josh Crick questioned the logic behind the recommendation, “It seems odd that we're asking the people that have a physical disability to come in to the office to get their flag and the people that have the ability and can shovel their own snow but want to have flags anyways, they just go online and can get the flag.”
Agreeing that it was odd situation, the MD’s new Manager of Transporation Lyle Treleaven said, the major concern relates to the potential of a Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy (FOIP) request being submitted that may release ratepayers' sensitive information, such as doctors' notes, to the public.
Still opposed to the decision that would prevent the hardship flag application from being offered online, Crick added, “I think we should go with the number two option, that the people wanting the hardship flags can apply online and if there is a request for information, then we can just black out that personal information.”
Prior to the vote, councillors were under the impression that they would be able to assist ratepayers with their hardship application who may be unable to travel to the MD’s Administration Building whether due to illness or being in hospitalized.
Standing in on behalf of Bryan Bespalko, the MD’s General Manager of Infrastructure Services, Treleaven said, “I'm not intimately familiar with how policies are worded. However, I don't see any reason why not. As long as somebody's signed something that says this person is acting on their behalf. I don't see why we wouldn't accept that.”
During the council meeting, it was not made clear to members of council that the MD’s policy for the Hardship Snow Removal Program states, “The resident must sign the waiver in person. Friends or family members will not be permitted to sign unless there is proof of Power of Attorney.”
Hardship Snow Removal Program
Other considerations for the hardship program’s eligibility include that snow removal is essential to enable the resident to access a minimum of one roadway to or from the residence, and snow removal is essential for the day-to-day living of the resident.
For those who qualify for the program, they can contact the MD’s Transportation and Utilities Department for snowplowing of their driveway for no fee. The snowplow will provide the resident with one path enabling access to their home or garage from the road.
The municipality asks people enrolled in the program to use their discretion when calling for the service, as “snow less than two inches deep would likely not cause their residence to become inaccessible,” according to the MD’s website.
Similar to the regular snowplow flags, the hardship flags will be completed when all municipal roadways have been cleared. Ideally, all hardships flag requests will be cleared by MD crews within 48 hours of receiving a snow removal request.
The application waiver expires on April 30 of each spring and needs to be resigned annually by people seeking to use the program.