Snow busts budget

The City of Red Deer blew through its snow and ice control budget for the second year in a row.

The City of Red Deer blew through its snow and ice control budget for the second year in a row.

Last year, the city spent $7.9 million, some $3.3 million over its budgeted amount for the calendar year.

In 2013, the city spent $4.8 million, overshooting its budget by $1.4 million.

The overspending could be traced to the record snowfall that blanketed the city starting in November 2013, the snowiest month ever recorded by Environment Canada for Red Deer, coming in at 62.5 cm, followed by 54 cm in December.

The typical winter season sees about 120 cm of snow. By March 26, 2014, the city had received about 160 cm.

As a result, the city declared all out-war on snow while revamping its snow and ice control program.

During the 2014 budget deliberations, council approved a one-time $1.9-million capital budget expense in 2014 to purchase new snow removal equipment, and an operating budget increase of $855,000 in both 2014 and 2015.

As part of its new policy, crews plowed residential streets within 15 days after a 10-cm snow pack, leaving two small windrows on both sides of the street. In the past, the city would plow the streets within 40 days and leave a windrow on one side of the street or the other.

Public Works manager Greg Sikora said the campaign went over fairly well in 2014, the first full year of the new program.

Sikora said it was about balancing the public’s expectations for clear roads and accessibility.

“I believe we made significant gains in the residential areas to get those roads accessible and open,” said Sikora. “And to address the rutting in those areas.”

Under the old program, crews would typically plow in residential areas once a year. They would have to wait for accumulation to the point where the roads would become almost impassable, said Sikora.

“If that was the case, we would be waiting and waiting and we wouldn’t have plowed residential streets this year at all,” he said.

Next winter, there will be more changes to the city’s snow and ice control program. Crews will move to a five-day turnaround for residential streets plows. City council will provide more direction later this year.

“We’ll review what the initial direction was and we’ll see if it is the best fit for Red Deer,” Sikora said.

Sikora said five days is an ambitious target.

As March 15, the city has spent $2.8 million out of its $5.5-million budget for 2015.

On average, the city usually has had about 113.2 cm of snow by the end of March. This winter season, the city has had about 119.3 cm of snow.

Sikora said there was far less snow than the previous season, but compared to averages, the city saw more snow.

This winter featured more melt-freeze-snow cycles, which triggered sanding and traction control campaigns.

Sikora said the city had 62 freeze-thaw days or above-zero days. The average winter season is about 150 days long.

In the past, the city typically spends about 60 per cent of its budget between January and April and the remaining 40 per cent from October to December.

Sikora said the city has changed its service levels in a new policy, which triggers the spending to a more 50-50 split.

crhyno@bprda.wpengine.com

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