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Resident Richard Rozenstraten points to Demelt Crescent where he saw a city water tanker backing up for more than a block last Friday.

Somebody could get killed: resident

Mike W. Bryant
Northern News Services

Yellowknife (May 20/05) - A Yellowknife resident says never mind the dangers at the dump. It's city vehicles driving on neighbourhood streets that people ought to be worried about.

Richard Rozenstraten was outraged after witnessing a city watering truck back down streets for more than a block last week without any obvious means of warning pedestrians. The city's two watering trucks are used for dust suppression.

"Any vehicle with limited visibility that freaking big, and backing up on a public street where Joe Q public walks around, is proven in Nunavut and the rest of Canada that it kills people on a regular basis," said Rozenstraten. "The city's inherent lack of safety in their process is appalling."

Four people in Nunavut have been killed by municipal vehicles since December 2000. Two of the fatalities involved heavy service vehicles backing into people standing or walking behind them.

Rozenstraten said he saw a city tanker truck watering the gravel road on Woolgar Avenue on the morning of May 13.

He said it backed down the road for more than a block to the corner at Kam Lake Road with no apparent audible "beeper" alarms, spotters or safety cones.

He promptly called City Hall, bylaw, the fire department and RCMP, but 30 minutes later saw the same vehicle back down a hill on Demelt Crescent where a woman was walking with a baby stroller.

"Anybody, any corporation in town, would never even think of operating pieces of equipment in a public place that recklessly," said Rozenstraten.

Public works director Greg Kehoe said it is common practice for their watering trucks to drive slowly backwards and forwards down gravel roads, but only for short distances with an audible beeper to warn anyone behind it. "The back-up siren is working," said Kehoe. "But when we went down and listened to it we thought it could be louder, so we're probably going to put a louder one on."

Kehoe said as far as he knows, there has never been a serious injury or death involving city vehicles.

"A lot of our drivers have kids and are family men and they're concerned, too," he said.

An e-mail sent to Rozenstraten from city administrator Max Hall indicated that the beeper was clogged with mud, and could only be heard if someone was standing next to the truck.

Vehicles checked

Dennis Althouse, Public Works superintendent, reported back that every vehicle is checked in the morning to make sure everything is working properly before they leave the shop. Whatever went wrong with the speaker, he said, must've happened that day.

As a result of Rozenstraten's complaint, Althouse said drivers have been instructed to only back their vehicles up when absolutely necessary.

He wondered, however, whether the directive would only create more problems.

"This is one of those situations where a complaint may not have resulted in the best solution," said Althouse.

"Extra driving, extra costs, and then you're running loaded vehicles over pavement that isn't made for trucks."