Next snow could bust the budget

November snowfall so depleted the City of Red Deer’s 2010 snow removal budget that department surpluses may be needed before the end of the year. As of Dec. 1, the city’s budget for snow clearing and removal stands at about $250,000 from the original $2.18 million.

A pair of Public Works graders plow snow on southbound Gaetz Avenue near Southpointe Common.

A pair of Public Works graders plow snow on southbound Gaetz Avenue near Southpointe Common.

November snowfall so depleted the City of Red Deer’s 2010 snow removal budget that department surpluses may be needed before the end of the year.

As of Dec. 1, the city’s budget for snow clearing and removal stands at about $250,000 from the original $2.18 million.

Roads superintendent Jim Chase said the last snowfall cost about $400,000, the bulk of which was spent from Nov. 15 to Dec. 1 on plowing, sanding and some snow removal from the downtown and bridges.

“We could be running out if we get another snow storm or two — we could go over budget,” said Chase.

If a shortfall happens, the city would draw from any surpluses within the roads section, followed by the Public Works Department and then the Development Services division, Chase said.

The city received a deluge of complaints from Nov. 15 to 17 who felt the city could be doing a better job clearing snow and ice. At the time, Chase said his department was doing the best it could based on staffing levels and weather-related circumstances.

Chase said on Tuesday that no additional plow and sanding staff are being sought through the 2011 operational budget, which will be discussed in January. “We are looking at other departments to help us out during the peak snow events,” said Chase, referring to the Parks and Environmental Service Departments.

Snow has been cleared according to the first two priorities identified within the city’s snow removal policy. Topping the priority list are hills, bridges and overpasses, high collision and high hazard locations and accesses to Red Deer Regional Hospital Centre, followed by major roads or arterials.

Sanding maintenance is now being done.

“The bus routes haven’t been done because we only clear bus routes when we have 10 cm of packed snow,” Chase said.

Any snow that is removed is taken to one of two sites — the Edgar industrial subdivision and a spot adjacent to the landfill site.

City manager Craig Curtis announced earlier this fall that a review of the snow removal policy would be done and that the city would check into whether a reserve specifically for snow removal should be set up.

Chase said his department is gathering statistics to identify any deficiencies and to make comparisons with other cities.

The snow removal policy has five priorities, with No. 5 being the lowest priority (residential road clearing).

Councillor Cindy Jefferies said she would welcome a review of the city’s snow removal policy to see how service can be improved but it will be a balancing act.

“Not everyone in the community agrees on what would make the service better,” Jefferies said. “Regardless of how much money we put into the snow removal budget, we’re not going to make everybody happy.”

ltester@bprda.wpengine.com