$870k snow-clearing surplus expected

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St. Albert saved $870,000 in 2017 thanks to low snowfall.

Despite overall precipitation for this year being higher than average at 484 mm, as of Dec. 22 only 42.9 centimetres of snow had fallen in the Edmonton area, with only 0.2 centimetres falling in December. Although the city was hit by a minor snowfall after that date, it was not enough to warrant a snow clearing.

“We have not accumulated enough snow at this point … to initiate a residential snow clearing operation in this calendar year,” said Louise Stewart, the city’s parks and open spaces operations manager.

The city budgets for two large snow-clearing events each year – one in January or February, and the other in November or December. 2017’s surplus covers the second half of last winter and the first half of this winter. Any snow-clearing that takes place in the new year would come out of 2018’s budget.

$434,000 of the snow-clearing surplus is related to low snowfall last year, which meant the city did not have to send crews out for residential clearing.

Jay Mason, manager of operations, infrastructure roads and sidewalks for the department of public works, said the total cost for snow clearing is based on estimated contractor costs to initiate residential clearings.

“Residential clearing is to be completed in 10 (to) 12 days and is a removal operation which means that snow is cleared and hauled away,” he said.

“Due to the extent of this operation and the timelines, it is supported mainly through contractors as the internal forces still have to meet our other service levels.”

When snow falls, the city prioritizes plowing and ice control on St. Albert Trail and Ray Gibbon Drive within eight hours, if two to five centimetres of snow accumulate. Arterial roads and collector and commercial roads are prioritized next.

For residential roads, the city normally initiates snow removal if six to nine centimetres of “snow pack” – or compacted snow – builds up in the driving lanes.

While the budget for both snow-clearing events for this year will go toward the city’s surplus, last year also had a $400,000 surplus.

In November, Coun. Sheena Hughes said the city increased its budget for snow removal two years ago in order to be prepared for a second clearing but has not had to use that extra money.

At the time, she suggested the city consider whether it should continue budgeting for that.

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April Hudson

April is the editor of the St. Albert Gazette