Higher and higher - A steady stream of trucks full of snow has been flowing to the town’s ‘snow dump’ located off Sylvaire Close near the lagoon system as street clearing continues. There a D7 Cat is being used to continuously push snow to the top of the pile and compact it. For the second time this season

Higher and higher - A steady stream of trucks full of snow has been flowing to the town’s ‘snow dump’ located off Sylvaire Close near the lagoon system as street clearing continues. There a D7 Cat is being used to continuously push snow to the top of the pile and compact it. For the second time this season

Prete feels residents prepared to pay more for snow removal

The policy needs to be changed so residential streets are cleared of snow quicker, contended Councillor Matt Prete

The policy needs to be changed so residential streets are cleared of snow quicker, contended Councillor Matt Prete when he and his colleagues discussed snow and ice clearing during a committee of the whole meeting last Thursday.

John Watson, the town’s public works foreman outlined the town’s policy of clearing ‘A’ and ‘B’ routes after significant snowfall events and then evaluating ‘C’ routes (which cover about 75 per cent of town streets) after the other routes are done.

During an average winter ‘A’ routes are cleared 6-8 times, ‘B’ routes are cleared 3-5 times and ‘C’ routes typically once a year.

It takes town crews a day to clear the high priority ‘A’ routes and about three days to clear the medium priority ‘B’ routes, said Watson. ‘C’ routes take about 10-12 days but can take as much as 30 days depending on snowfall during that time.

The cost to clear those ‘C’ roads is about $35,000, he stated. When the council authorized emergency clearing in December, the bill for ‘C’ routes, with contract equipment and manpower, was about $150,000.

Those ‘C’ routes include 113 locations where snow is cleared to the centre of streets or cul-de-sacs and then hauled away.

“The problem is the policy,” Prete said. “The first event was Nov. 1 and we did the ‘A’ and ‘B’ routes then parked the equipment. The next was Nov. 16 and we did the ‘A’ and ‘B’ routes and parked the equipment. The problem is we parked the equipment. In my opinion we have to keep the equipment operating all the time. We’re waiting too long, the equipment needs to be moving every single day in order to do what we need …”

Watson, during his overview noted streets where there are sidewalks on both sides of the street are among those that require hauling snow since there isn’t the one side to pile snow on that’s available on other streets.

“Would residents be willing to give up one of the sidewalks for the winter, in residential areas, not in commercial areas?” Prete wondered.

Councillor Megan Chernoff asked what part of the public works department’s workload would be sacrificed if Prete’s suggestion was followed.

Watson indicated winter fire hydrant maintenance has usually occurred by now but hasn’t been started, roadway safety inspections were supposed to be done by the end of December, brush clearing of lanes hasn’t been started and then there’s building maintenance and other items.

“We need to be careful not to make a decision based on weird circumstances,” cautioned Councillor Jas Payne.

Mayor Sean McIntyre indicated “a goal of mine is to see our service level increase generally. But we do have to understand these are unprecedented measures and an unprecedented time. It’s a great time to vent our ideas.”

Prete replied he’s never been satisfied with snow removal in the seven and a half years he’s lived here.

“The concept of don’t clean streets until they’re impassable is unacceptable by our residents. I think they’re willing to pay for it. We can depend on snow, if we don’t clear it, we can depend on impassable roads. The definition is insulting.”

He advocated changing the policy to provide a better level of service. “I think we can do it for a reasonable cost. I don’t believe this decision is based on the last 60 days.”

Councillor Dale Prete countered, “I’ve lived in 11 different communities. What we do in Sylvan Lake by far exceeds them. To say we have inadequate snow removal is not a proper characterization É All you have to do is drive down the road to Red Deer. I’m going to defend where we’re at, I believe we’re doing an extremely good job. We could do a little better job.”

Responding to a suggestion sidewalks on one side of the street be used for snow storage, Councillor Chris Lust discouraged the idea. “A lot of people get around by sidewalks,” she said.

Watson reminded councillors this year has been very unusual. He couldn’t remember anything like it since 1986.

He added he was “so impressed” with how the Dec. 2 snowfall was handled when private contractors were hired to double the town’s workforce. At that time they cleared the ‘C’ routes in five days. “That would be a better way to spend than adding equipment and staff to run it,” he said.

Following last Thursday’s meeting, the town announced it had again hired additional snow removal services to double its work force and remove snow from all streets and alleys in town.

That work began on Monday in residential areas.

The item was also be back on the agenda for councillors last night (Wednesday – after press time) when they heard a budget presentation from the public works department.

Deliberation of the town’s budget by councillors will take place tomorrow night (Friday from 5-8:30 p.m.) and on Saturday (9 a.m. to 2 p.m.) at the town office. The meetings are all open to the public.