Snow budget boost proposed

Red Deer city administration is proposing a $2-million increase in the operating budget over the next two years to combat snow.

Red Deer city administration is proposing a $2-million increase in the operating budget over the next two years to combat snow.

The infusion would bring the snow budget to $4.4 million in 2014 and $5.4 million in 2015. The 2013 budget was $3.4 million.

“The level of service on the road would change considerably from what we do now, including sidewalks, if the recommendations are adopted by council,” said Paul Goranson, director of the city’s Development Services division on Tuesday. “Certainly there would be an impact and a benefit that the community would see.”

While the first day of the 2014 operating budget deliberations began with a $302.6 million budget with a projected 3.8 per cent tax increase, the day ended with a possible 4.12 per cent property tax hike.

On a $301,100 home, that would mean taxpayers would pay $1,905 in taxes in 2014 compared to $1,830 on the same home in 2013 or $6.25 more a month.

Council passed a resolution in December directing administration to bring a report on the snow and ice control policy during the operating budget deliberations. The recommendations were based on historical weather trends and typical winters over five years. Goranson said some of the suggested changes are based on Edmonton’s snow policy, which has similar weather patterns.

Council is expected to debate the proposed policy changes and the overall budget on Thursday.

Goranson said with more staff, more equipment and contracts the plows would be out in the community sooner if there was an extreme snowfall as has been witnessed this winter.

“Even though it is not designed around what is happening now, things would happen quicker and we would have a bigger workforce to throw at things if it came to the point where there was significant snowfall above that design,” said Goranson.

Administration presented two options and backed one for adjustments to the snowfall triggers to improve the clearing turnaround for residential and commercial streets and sidewalks.

For residential street plowing, administration is recommending a five-day target of snow pack plowing when there is five cm of snow pack compared to the current 40 days with a discretionary snowfall target in the current policy.

This would be a similar operation to the Dec. 3 blitz plowing. Another option is a 21-day target when the snow pack reaches 20 cm or 30 cm in a single event. Both options would require more graders, loaders, trucks and skid steer loaders to be funded out of capital dollars.

The administration-backed option rings in at $400,000 on the operating side and $1.2 million on the capital side. The 21-day target would cost $600,000 in operating and $1.7 million in capital costs.

As for sidewalks, council will consider either 72 hours, 48 hours or the existing four-to-10 day targets when triggered by an undetermined amount of snowfall. Administration is recommending 72 hours to the tune of $500,000 on the operating side and $125,000 on the capital side. The 48-hour target would cost $825,000 in the operating budget and $560,000 in the capital budget.

A new snow storage site or expansion of one of the existing sites is also on the table to debate. A new site, to be funded over several years out of the capital budget, is estimated at about $4.8 million including engineering, land and construction. Goranson said a new permanent site has not been determined but the city is currently looking for an interim site.

Should council adopt the proposed policy, the changes would go into effect in the fall of 2014. Council has already had to depart from the existing policy because of the record snowfall.

Goranson said there are some things that they could not order until the fall. For example, he said, a snow plow is not the type of equipment that you can pick up at Canadian Tire.

In December, Councillors Tanya Handley and Ken Johnston had asked that a snow removal reserve be considered. The city is currently reviewing all its reserves. Goranson said a proposed snow and ice reserve should be held with the larger review.

Day 2 of budget deliberations begin at noon with more department presentations today. Debate is expected to get underway on Thursday.

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