Penticton’s Snow Angel program melted away this week.
Len Robson, the city’s public works manager, told Penticton city council Monday that the program had not been effective. The program, which connects volunteers with seniors and others unable to clear snow, was introduced in 2009 in response to a city bylaw requiring homeowners to clear snow from city sidewalks adjacent to their property.
“It became apparent quite quickly that we ended up with more people wanting help than we did people who were willing to go through the process,” said Robson, referring to the volunteer application process, which required, among other things, a criminal record check. “In 2011, our records show 48 residents requesting assistance and six volunteers registered.”
Robson recommended that the Snow Angel program be discontinued and replaced with an advertising-based program promoting neighbours helping neighbours.
“We want to encourage people to look around there neighbourhoods and determine who requires assistance and provide that. This process occurs naturally in many neighbourhoods in the community,” said Robson.
“We will continue with the recognition process, which allows residents that are receiving help to nominate their snow angel and be recognized via the website or a snow angel pin or snow angel mug, something like that.”
Under the Snow Angel program, only six recognition requests were received, none of which were for registered members of the program.
“By simplifying the approach and promoting neighbours helping neighbours, the volunteer base will hopefully increase,” said Robson.
Coun. John Vassilaki, who introduced the Snow Angel program, wasn’t willing to let it dissolve away easily.
“Everybody knows how close to my heart this subject is,” said Vassilaki, who wondered if simplifying the application process might produce more volunteers. “I have heard from some people that they don’t like being treated as if they were criminals, to get a criminal check from the RCMP. That has turned a lot of people off from volunteering.”
“Our concern is that we are asking the elderly, really the vulnerable people of our society, to give us their address to hand out to people,” said Robson. “We didn’t feel very comfortable that everybody might not have the best intent for that sort of information.”
Vassilaki was the only councillor to vote against replacing snow angels with a simplified volunteer promotion program.
Robson also asked council to support an update to the city’s snow removal policy that would see two sidewalks on steep hills, with high pedestrian traffic added to the list of priority walkways for city snow clearing. Though the two sidewalks, one on Pineview Road and one on Balsam Avenue near Wiltse school, are adjacent to properties, Robson said they were inaccessible from the homes and constituted a significant hazard to pedestrian traffic.