The city’s 2016 snow removal budget is on track to come in about $400,000 in the black after relatively mild snowfalls this year.
Louise Stewart, operations manager for the city’s parks department, said snowfall has been average when compared to the past three years, especially when factoring in the recent dump that came right before Christmas.
The budgeting is done on the calendar year as opposed to on the winter itself, and the final budget savings are expected to be around $400,000 for 2016.
The savings don’t come necessarily from labour – the crews who clear snow keep busy with other work like fixing potholes when there’s no snow and are paid regardless – but rather from the cost of doing residential snow-clearing.
“Even though the guys are scheduled, there’s always other things that they’re doing,” Stewart said. “Where we do see the savings is the residential snow clearing. We didn’t have to do one so far in 2016.”
Residential roads are cleared and the snow removed when there’s about six to nine centimetres of packed snow on the driving-lane surfaces, which hasn’t happened yet this year.
Stewart said it’s possible that will happen in January, depending on whether there’s more snow on the way, but that would already be factored into the 2017 budget.
Road crews are on 24-hour shifts, on-call when needed. The benchmarks the city strives for is to plow and sand St. Albert Trail and Ray Gibbon Drive first, within eight hours of two centimetres of snow accumulating. Second, crews clear the major arterial roads, again within that eight-hour time frame. Lastly the collector and commercial roads are typically cleared within 16 hours of a snowfall.
Snow is cleared and removed from collector roads and residential roads as required and as resources allow.
Sidewalks, trails and municipal facilities are cleared using a similar priority-ranking system. The Red Willow Trail System, St. Albert Place and the transit terminals are swept to be snow-free within eight hours of one centimetre of snow. Arterial sidewalks and trails, as well as regular bus stops, are plowed within 48 hours of two centimetres of snow, while trails and sidewalks in residential neighbourhoods are typically plowed within 72 hours.
Residents are responsible for clearing the sidewalks in front of their own properties.
While most St. Albertans were celebrating the holidays last weekend, without worrying about having work to do, city crews were hard at work clearing the snowfall.
“They did come in on standby (over the holidays). They knew there was potential because we’d seen the forecast, so they knew that was coming,” Stewart said. “We always have crews scheduled to respond.”