Fort St. John talks snow clearing policy changes next week

Fort St. John has blown through its snow clearing budget over the last two years, and councillors will discuss changes to the city's snow removal policies at their January 7 meeting.

The city spent $1.77 million on snow clearing in 2018, up from its budget of $1.3 million. That's after the city went overbudget in 2017 and spent $1.6 million, above its $1.4 million budget.

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We can blame that on record snowfalls — in the winter of 2017-18, the city recorded 339 centimetres, and has seen 115 cm so far this winter.

It's no doubt stressing city resources, and a new policy that will come before council identifies priorities for snow and ice control for streets, parking lots, and sidewalk/trails, as well as the appropriate level of response and when contractors are used.

The proposed changes, in the works since 2017, to the policy set priorities for road clearing, parking lots and sidewalks, and the levels of routine snow and ice clearing.

The focus of new policy changes is to provide an equitable level of service to the community, allowing clearing of streets, sidewalks, parking lots, and trails in a prioritized manner, Jeremy Garner, director of public works and utilities, notes in a presentation to council. It also takes into consideration the history of recent snow clearing and yearly snowfall accumulations.

"The draft policy establishes that snow fighters will clear snow on a priority basis to enable effective movement of emergency vehicles and facilitate movement of traffic and pedestrians within the city," Garner writes.

"The draft policy aims to reduce many of the negative impacts of winter however not eliminate all negative impacts."

The city clears 350 kilometres of streets and another 77 kilometres of trails of sidewalks, along with managing the public snow dump and winter sand and salt management. To do that work, it takes 25 full-time workers 17 hours a day, seven days a week to manage, with the help of 30 pieces of equipment. The city also uses around 5,500 tonnes of sand and another 400 tonnes of salt. 

In 2017, the work cost $4,600 per lane kilometre, and just one haul-off of snow from downtown can cost $2,500 per hour — and up to $50,000 in total.

The city spent less than $1 million on snow clearing in 2015 and 2016, and well under its budgets for those years.

 

Email Managing Editor Matt Preprost at editor@ahnfsj.ca.

 

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