Saturday, February 5, 2011

A Lesson Learned, Or Maybe Two

You may remember a previous post I did regarding a neighbour with sewage in his basement. Well, I definitely remember the encounter. In fact, I was involved with the issue for three weeks. The involvement was not so much direct involvement as it was indirect, with opinions and accusations.
It turns out that every story has more than one angle to it, and this story is no different.
As terrible as a sewage backup is, sometimes it is the responsibility of the landlord, and sometimes it is that of the tenant. It was explained to me that when a tenant pours grease down a drain and causes the drain to clog, it is not the responsibility of the landlord. And further, if a previous tenant pours the grease and a current tenant has the clog, it is still not the responsibility of the landlord. I never know that. But I did pass that information on to my neighbour in discussing the possible causes of his sewage backup issues.
I also learned another tidbit of information. It seems, after the City By-Laws department visits a house, and after they find By-Law infractions with the house, the issues only have to be fixed prior to habitation when it is a rental unit. The By-Law infractions do not have to be remedied if the residence is owner occupied. I guess that is to protect a tenant who may not know what they are getting into, where an owner of a property is more familiar with the issues of the house, and go in 'eyes open'.
In dealing with the house in question, I spoke with several different departments, and people.
One thing that really stuck in my mind, was that the person, or family, who became homeless, seemed to be the ones who had to facilitate their own recovery. They had to call the landlord regarding the issues in the house. The neighbour contacted the fire department, health department, the movers, the tenant advocate, and their EIA worker. While he appeared to be stressed beyond coping, he was the one who seemed to be expected to make sure everyone who could help him was helping him. Each person or department involved had their own area of responsibility, and their own job to do. But nobody was overseeing the entire picture, except the neighbour, who may not have been able to step up to the task. Or at least thats the way it seemed to me.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Great Neighbours Being Great Neighbours

The snow plows came yesterday and left a huge pile of heavy snow blocks where my path to the street used to be. Every path along my street was blocked by the 4-5 foot pile of snow blocks left along the south side of the street. When I looked at the daunting task of removing the snow pile, I was not sure I was up to the task. And my husband is still recovering from a couple of operations on his wrist and elbow, so he is in no shape to move the huge chunks of snow this year. I have been doing a pretty good job so far this winter in keeping the path clear between the sidewalk and the street, and keeping my own yard shovelled out. But this last piling of snow chunks was too much. I knew I would not be able to clear it, and hoped my husband would not try.
Later last night I had a look out my window. Someone had cleared my path to the street. Along with my path, my neighbours path was also cleared out. So, I am pretty sure who the good samaritan was.
This was not the first time my neighbour helped me out with the task of clearing snow. But thats what neighbours do. They help each other out.
When the plows go down our back lane, leaving the foot high, and better, chunks of snow, neighbours are helping neighbours. I have seen one neighbour with a four wheel ATV, and snow scraper at the front, move snow piles out of the way. And the neighbour with the snow blower a few houses down has been spotted travelling down the lane clearing snow. And another neighbour was out across the lane helping an elderly neighbour clear his parking space. Why? Because that's what neighbours do.
And in the summer, when we are cutting our front boulevard, we cut the boulevard in front of the neighbour to the left, and the one to the right at the same time. Why do we do that? Because they do the same when they are cutting their grass. Because that is what neighbours do.
At least that's what neighbours on my street do.
We've got a good bunch of neighbours on our street. And last night reminded me again just how great they are.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Plows, Paths, Banks and Budgets

The snow plows came down my street this afternoon. They arrived like an army, filling the street with heavy machinery. The grader took a pass, scraping the street and leaving a wake of snow as it travelled down the road. Then it backed up and took another try at the street. There were several front end loaders and various other pieces of machinery on the street, all working to scrape the hard packed snow off the street.
I didn't think the street was that bad. I was able to navigate the street with the 2-3 inches of hard packed snow on it. I know we only have so much money in the budget for snow removal in our city, and getting to the cement is not that important as long as the streets are passable. And our street was passable.
But the plows were out, so why look a gift horse in the mouth.
Then I saw the piles of snow along the edges of the street. I saw that they were getting quite high. I saw the path I had been keeping clear. The path that got me from my home to the street. The path had a huge pile of snow chunks damming it closed. And I had to go out.
There was a 4-5 foot barricade piled up at the street side of my path, as well as everyone else's path to the street. When I got to the edge of my path, I stopped. There was no way I was going to try and climb up that pile of snow chunks to make my way to the street. Then I looked down the street to the left, then to the right. Every one of the paths that were clear passages to the street only an hour ago were now dammed up with the hard packed snow from the front street. So, I walked down the sidewalk, to the end of my street. I stepped over the small wave of snow left by the grater, and came back up the street. I made my way past the plows, still busily scraping my street. I made my way to my car, got in, and drove away.
When I returned home with my husband, he let me out at the end of our street so I could walk up the sidewalk and get to my home without having to climb over the huge snow pile that now lined my street.
As I came up to my home, my neighbour poked her head out the door to say hello. She commented on the huge pile of snow chunks that now lined our street. We both were not pleased that there was not a single path left open for any of us to use. And we both commented that it was not going to be easy removing these huge chunks of snow that now blocked our paths.
I have noticed that not a single bucket of snow has been taken away from my street during these snow clearings. So now I am wondering. Who is making the decisions on the logistics of snow clearing this year?
I understand that we have more snow this year than normal. And I understand that it costs money to have the snow removed. But who made the decision to bring 8 snow plows, graders, front end loaders to my street and scrape the snow? And who decided that the snow would remain as snow banks on my street, and not be taken away? All I know is that it will be the citizens of my street, young and old, able bodied and not, who will have to remove those large chunks of hardened snow from our paths to regain access to our street.