BONNYVILLE – While snow is likely the last thing anyone wants to talk about right now, the Town of Bonnyville Council did just that during their Aug. 23 council meeting, giving the nod of approval to a new snow removal policy.
However, the approval did not come without some discussion among council and requests for clarification on a number of areas given snow removal was on the minds of many Bonnyville residents last winter as the area saw some significant snow events occur.
“So obviously this was a pretty sensitive one for us last year when we all first came into council, and we were bombarded with about 10 feet of snow over the six-month period. So, it’s one that I think a lot of us are paying pretty close attention to, to make sure we get it right this time around,” Coun. Neil Langridge said in drawing administration’s attention to a couple of areas in the proposed the policy that he felt needed clarification.
Langridge specifically addressed Sect. 4.31 under Clearing Operations pertaining to snow removal being undertaken during normal working hours by the Public Works Department except in specific circumstances. One of those exceptions is when “snowfall exceeds an accumulation of 20 centimeters”.
“Is that at one time? Is that over a 24-hour period. Is that over a weekend,” Langridge questioned, noting that a new policy needs to be “as black and white as possible” with little room for interpretation.
Brad Trimble, general manager of Operations and Engineering, said that would likely be considered one event, including if it involved two snowfalls in a short amount of time.
“It it’s two events close together, if it’s 20 cm on the ground, I’m sure we would consider that one event. It kind of depends on the individual event.”
Langridge also drew council’s attention to subsection 4.3.4 of Clearing Operations, which allows the Town to contract snow removal to third party contractors under a number of circumstances which did not include equipment failure.
“We ran into an issue last year where our loader went down with a computer issue, if I am correct, where we ended up not being able to clear some of the snow as quickly as possible,” he said, questioning why there was nothing in the policy about equipment failure and the option to bring in third party contractors if that was to occur again.
“At what point would we now be contracting that service because if we can’t clear snow in an effective manner?”
CAO Bill Rogers said the intention of the Town’s snow removal operations are that roadways remain passable.
“We’ve always had response priorities to various areas around town to ensure that things like emergency routes, school access routes, things like that get cleared before residential streets and alleyways, just because they’re the ones that have the highest vehicle count of traffic and the most important when it comes to emergency routes.”
Rogers expressed the view that there should be some discretion on the part of the operators to make the call as to whether or not third-party contractors are needed versus using the Town’s own resources. He said that is built into the policy already and administration felt it could achieve the timelines outlined in the policy as a benchmark.
“Occasionally, when we hit heavy snowfall events, we will bring in contractors to help. We routinely bring in contractors for doing things like snow hauling and that sort of thing.”
According to the policy, the priority ranking, and service levels along with timelines break down this way:
Priority 1 – arterial roadways, emergency services sites, collector roads, municipal sites. Snow is cleared to maintain as close to bare pavement standard as possible – trigger is 1 cm to 3 cm of accumulated snow.
Priority 2 – downtown business sections, school zones and school access routes. Snow is cleared within seven to 10 days – trigger is 3 cm to 5 cm of accumulated snow.
Priority 3 – commercial/industrial areas, downtown business laneways. Snow is cleared within 14 days. Trigger is 5 cm of packed snow.
Priority 4 – residential streets (zones 1, 2 and 3, on a rotational basis and based on pass ability and worst first). Snow is cleared within 30 days. Trigger is 6 cm of packed snow.
Priority 5 – residential laneways. Residential lanes must be passable. Priority will be based on back lane garage access where applicable or low points where spring runoff is/has potential for flooding.
“Make no mistake, we could feather-dust the roads and have it done in three days, but you can’t afford it,” Rogers said, adding the timelines are a new addition to the snow removal policy and will serve as a baseline going forward through this coming winter and will be evaluated.
“If we meet all these timelines and do a town-wide snow removal in 30 days and we don’t have another snow event that makes us start over again, for example. Then our anticipation is that residential streets will get cleared three or four times over the winter as opposed to two in previous years.”