Monday’s blizzard forced Red Deer city council to declare all-out war on big snow that has made residential streets near impassable starting today.
Council voted unanimously on Monday to depart from its policy to conduct the major snow plow blitz in neighbourhoods because of the safety and accessibility concerns on Red Deer streets and neighbourhoods. Typically a residential plow takes 45 days.
The plows will clear snow in residential areas and industrial/commercial areas within five to seven days.
Earlier in the day, the city activated its Emergency Operations Centre allowing the city to co-ordinate its efforts across departments to collaborate on a strategy dealing with the snow clearing. The group was meeting late into Monday evening.
“We’ve been hearing from the public that residential clearing has been becoming an issue for them particularly with this last snowfall,” said Mayor Tara Veer. “It became very clear, residential areas in many areas were becoming impassable and that poses a safety concern for our citizens.”
During the debate councillors raised concerns over the inconvenience snow clearing will cause for residents because of the windrows.
But in weighing inconvenience against safety, council decidedly chose safety.
Councillors expressed the frustration that they have heard from residents. They said this will give relief in those residential areas.
“This program is based on accessibility and the ability of people to get around,” said Greg Sikora, manager of the Public Works Department. “Unfortunately there are some trade offs. Trading off that quick response with the need for (single and dual) windrows to be placed.”
However, the windrows are expected to be smaller than the typical windrows because the plows are not scraping down to pavement and the plows will be moving shiftly through the neighbourhoods.
The change in schedule will not affect the collector roadway/transit routes (Priority 4) campaign that is currently underway. Sikora said the crews will continue to work around the clock to plow and control icy conditions on the city streets. If need be, the plows will head back into the residential areas following the campaign.
Paul Goranson, the city’s director of the Developmental Services Division, told council when things are done quickly, the quality of service will be sacrificed. Goranson said if they did what the policy entailed, it would take much longer to do.
Signs will be posted in neighbourhood entrances to notify residents that plows are in the area.
The city followed a similar directive in 1996 in early November when a similar amount of snowfall fell in a short period of time.
Council heard there is $238,181 remaining in its $3.4 million snow and ice control budget for 2013. The blitz comes with a $175,000 price tag.
Goranson said the city is not in danger of tapping out its snow budget for the year.
Councillors Tanya Handley and Ken Johnston successfully brought forward a motion that calls for administration to review the city’s snow and ice control policy to address extreme snowfall in conjunction with the operating budget debate in January.
Last year, city council adopted its current policy in 2012 and decided at the time to review it on annual basis.
Council discussed the motion slightly indicating there is definite need to address extreme snowfall events. A separate motion to create a snowfall reserve fund was also put on the table.
“There was back-to-back extreme weather conditions that .. became apparent to us that the existing policy did not have what I call a reaction point for extraordinary events,” said Johnston. “This concerned us greatly. That’s why we did it. Sometimes policy is good but when Mother Nature decides to set her own agenda, we have to be sensitive to that.”
In other council news:
l The last hurdle was cleared to expand Safe Harbour’s mat program. Council voted unanimously in support of a land use bylaw amendment that allows the addition of six spaces to the site at 5246-53rd Avenue.
Kath Hoffman, executive director of the Safe Harbour Society, spoke in support of the addition at the public hearing that drew no naysayers. Hoffman said they typically turn away 80 people a month at the shelter. She said there are no additional costs to adding the space and there will be no expansion to the building.
Councillors echoed the importance of the program in the community.