(BLACK PRESS file photo)

(BLACK PRESS file photo)

Improved snow removal service will come at a cost for Lacombe

Ongoing $73,600 operational cost; one-time $500,000 capital cost discussed at council

Snow removal in Lacombe could improve…at a cost

The City of Lacombe administration is researching methods to ensure Lacombe is compliant with Alberta Environments recommendations. Proposed solutions would see the city snow removal budget increase to a proposed $73,600 for contracted services.

This equals about a 0.5 per cent tax rate increase.

Additionally, the city is looking to convert a portion of the city’s lagoons in order to hold the increased cleared snow. Stantec estimated the conversion of this space would cost the city capital budget $500,000.

Mathew Goudy, Lacombe chief administrative officer, said the cost would allow the city to increase the level of snow removal service without damaging Lacombe’s watershed.

“One of the things that lots of communities across Alberta have traditionally done is stockpile snow where they have space. That is not necessarily where it will have the least impact on the watershed,” he said.

By converting the lagoon, the city would be able to control outflow and ensure that contaminates are not released into the community.

Currently, the city has 97 km of road included in their clearing operations. Fourteen of those kilometres are currently removed and 30 km have enough space in the ditches or open space to dump the excess snow now. That leaves 53 km remaining for the city to potentially remove snow.

Goudy said increased snow removal is one of the more consistent concerns from residents to city hall. Comparatively to other municipalities, he believes the city currently has struck the right balance between cost and service.

“There are communities here that are hauling all of the snow out of their communities, which is a higher level of service than we are offering; and there are communities that are certainly offering the service much less frequently which is a lower level of service,” he said.

Lacombe Mayor Grant Creasey believes snow removal concerns would be greatly reduced if the city went ahead with these proposals.

“Disgruntled ratepayers over snow removal would be virtually eliminated,” he said.

Goudy said the issue has been on the horizon for the city for awhile and the decommissioning of the lagoons allow the city to repurpose those facilities.

“We need to find a good use for that lagoon. It is not good for all uses — you can’t build residential houses on it for example but using it for something like this serves both purposes. We reclaim the lagoon and make it into something useful for the municipality long-term,” he said.

The city’s snow removal policy and facilities currently meet legal needs but they aren’t meeting Alberta Environment best practices and recommendations— which the proposed increase in operating and capital costs would solve.

“Those recommendations have been in place for five years or so, so we have known this is on the horizon. With the lagoon opportunity coming up, we have put it off until now,” he said.

The item presented to council was presented as information only and more detailed information, including a break-down of capital costs, will be presented at a later date.

“I see this as a great start to somewhere where we can have a positive impact in the community. I would like to see if we could whittle that number down. I think there is value there and I think citizens would receive it well to have that level of service provided,” Creasey said.

Creasey believes this project would be a cost-benefit to the city.

“It is certainly timely that we consider it now. There are some substantial costs proposed to enable us to use those facilities for snow storage. We did not touch on the reasoning behind that number and I look forward to hearing those reasons,” he said.

Creasey’s preference is to have all snow removed but believes there is a compromise.

“There are certainly cost considerations to that and that is where we are now. I like to think there is a balance where we remove the majority of it,” he said.



todd.vaughan@lacombeexpress.com

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