Public works manager Matt Sutherland stands where the city has placed free sand for residents in the past outside the fence a the works yard. The program is not being offered this year because it was being abused, he said. (Monica Lamb-Yorski photo - Williams Lake Tribune)

Public works manager Matt Sutherland stands where the city has placed free sand for residents in the past outside the fence a the works yard. The program is not being offered this year because it was being abused, he said. (Monica Lamb-Yorski photo - Williams Lake Tribune)

Free city sand program in Williams Lake cancelled after rural residents take advantage of it

The sand and salt mixture was intended for city residents only

A free winter sand program in Williams Lake is on hold this winter because people were taking advantage of it.

Public works manager Matt Sutherland said the first year they put the sand out in 2018 was good with residents using it as it was intended.

It was a different story in 2019.

“The following year we were putting three or four tandem loads of sand there in a day, every day, for a week straight and at the end of it we knew it wasn’t just residents coming down to get a couple of buckets here or there,” Sutherland said. “We were seeing people come down and fill up pickup loads and other people coming down constantly with trailers and loading up large piles of sand.”

Initially, public works stopped offering the sand up top near the parking lot and started allowing residents to come into the works yard to get sand and show some identification to ensure they were city residents.

“A good 80 per cent of the people coming in were from the Cariboo Regional District or outside agencies, so we were turning them away because it was city residents’ tax dollars going out of the city,” Sutherland said.

It was also difficult to provide a safe access to the yard for residents because at the same time city trucks and crews were also accessing sand to do maintenance work.

Sutherland said he has reached out to the Cariboo Regional District to see if they want to work together to provide the service, but added at this point public works is trying to see how it can provide the sand safely and efficiently without the program being abused.

The sand the city was providing has a small percentage of salt — about four percent — to keep it from freezing so it can be utilized through the whole winter season.

“The sand is costly for us and to have us go through a couple truckloads a day and to see it going outside of the city in huge percentages is something we cannot continue,” Sutherland said, adding the city also cannot afford to staff and monitor the sand 24 hours a day.

CRD communications manager Chris Keam confirmed the CRD normally only provides sand for property owners to protect against flooding.



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Williams Lake resident Scott Zimonick said he misses the program, as he used the sand and salt mixture to keep his city sidewalks safe.

“The sand program was a wonderful thing to have,” he said, noting the location was also handy right in the city.

Williams Lake