Snow removal costs drop, city says

The city says its new snow and ice policy was a success, with last year’s snow removal costs lower than in the past four years.

Drew Hadfield, the city’s transportation manager, said total expenses for the 2010/2011 winter season were down despite an increase in snow and ice over the previous winter.

“This policy has only been in effect for less than a year and initial assessment suggests that it is providing acceptable levels of service with reduced operating expenses,” Hadfield said in a report to council.

The city says total operating expenses last winter were $148,446, compared to expenses of $176,367 and $272,242 for the two seasons prior.

One of the goals of the new policy, which council adopted Nov. 3, 2010, was to reduce the amount of overtime by city workers to keep roads cleared.

Hadfield said that while residential areas were managed within normal working hours, overtime was required on priority routes in order to meet the standards outlined in the policy.

As a consequence, the total cost of overtime was roughly $10,554, an increase of $6,327 over 2009/2010. But Hadfield pointed out last winter was rougher than the one before.

“The city experienced one major and three minor snow events during the 2010/11 winter season as compared to one minor event during the 2009/10 winter season,” Hadfield said. “In addition, the 2010/11 winter season also produced a number of freezing rain/ice events and a higher than average number of cold temperature days than experienced in recent years. The colder temperatures also extended the snow presence beyond the norm.”

Hadfield said a closer comparison can be made by looking at 2008/09, which had a more comparable winter climate to last year, and which cost the city $27,844 more than last year did.

When council adopted the snow and ice policy last year, it was the first time since 2004 that the city had such a policy to guide the city.

Before that, the city would respond to whichever roads received complaints, with no set priorities given to each road and no timelines for clearing.

Under the new policy, not every street is cleared which saves money.

Instead the policy establishes a system where arterial roads (Dogwood, Alder, Hilchey, Highway 19A) receive first priority, followed by collector roads (Erikson, Evergreen, McPhedran) and lastly, local roads which typically connect to collector roads.

The city’s Dogwood Operations Centre received and tracked snow and ice related questions and concerns throughout the winter.

The city received seven complaints about road conditions.

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