City of Red Deer roads supervisor Jim Chase sympathizes with local motorists who feel the municipality could be doing a better job of keeping streets free of snow and ice.
According to an online survey over the weekend on the Advocate’s website, 56 per cent of 518 respondents think the city is doing a “poor” or “terrible” job of snow removal — a big issue for many local residents in the last municipal election.
Only six per cent think the city is doing a “great” job, while 10 per cent describe it as “good” and 25 per cent call efforts “OK.” Survey results are not scientific and the percentage points were rounded up.
But Chase maintains his department is doing the best it can, based on limited staffing levels and an unfortunate series of weather-related circumstances.
Freezing rain and sleet created an icy foundation on streets before three days of continual snowfall. And now cold temperatures have set in, making it impossible for salt to melt this under-layer of ice. Chase said the salt brine solution the city uses freezes when temperatures are -18C or below.
Graders recently removed the layer of snow that fell over the ice, as per a city policy that calls for snowy ridges to be graded off major roadways once they reach a height of 2.5 cm.
But whether this was helpful is “debatable,” said Chase, who acknowledged that the sand and salt mixture that’s spread over the icy surface underneath isn’t digging in. “It’s just providing a bit of grit on top.”
As a result, many major thoroughfares, including 32nd Street and 40th Avenue, were slick on the weekend and Monday.
While the department’s 28 workers who operate 12 sander/snowplows, four graders and two salt brine units were working overtime to keep up with the city’s snow clearing demands, Chase believes his department could use as many as 10 additional workers. “We don’t have the full compliment of people who could work 24/7,” he said.
But hiring becomes a balancing act, said Chase, since many of those additional workers would have little to do when snow clearing is not needed.
“What would they do in the winter when it’s not snowing?”
Chase’s department is trying to gather data to see if a case could be made for hiring more staff.
While the city is able to hire contractors to help with snow removal, Chase said no skilled contractors are available locally to do sanding.