The cost of snow removal in Revelstoke is adding up this winter.
Since Jan. 1, more than 260 cm of snow has fallen in the city, costing more than half a million dollars to clear.
According to a report for a committee of the whole meeting on Feb. 15 put together by Darren Komonoski, operations manager, that’s about half the City’s yearly budget for snow removal.
Winter storms have hit Revelstoke hard in recent weeks and the resort is having a historic season with massive powder.
In town, the snow is affecting motorists’ and pedestrians’ abilities to move around safely.
Streets are prioritized for plowing and sanding as follows: arterial roads accessing emergency services, downtown core, bus routes and hills, city-owned downtown parking lots and RCMP detachment parking lot, remaining city streets and roads, remain city-owned parking lots (Community Centre, the Forum), and fire hydrants.
The City of Revelstoke provides snow removal coverage during the week with limited weekend coverage.
“Our main objective, in accordance with the Snow Removal Policy, is to provide safe and orderly moment of emergency vehicles, vehicular traffic, and pedestrians throughout the city during the winter,” said Komonoski.
On Feb. 3, the road conditions through the city were poor. Komonoski said that operations staff made the decision Friday afternoon to not have anyone work an overtime Friday night shift. But overnight rainfall and above zero temperatures turned “packed snow into deep rutted slush, causing ponding at intersections and difficulties for drivers and pedestrians.”
Staff scheduled an overtime shift Saturday night “to clean up the worst of the areas” and the remaining areas were cleared during the regular Sunday night shift.
But Komonoski said that snow removal couldn’t be done safely downtown due to “parked vehicles and pedestrians impacting the safety and efficiency of these operations.”
Staff face these challenges on a daily basis, said Komonoski. They will often come across vehicles parked on the sidewalk, vehicles parked for more than 24 hours in the same street location and snow being pushed onto the sidewalks from residential driveways.
Bylaw officers haven’t been able to enforce rules around parking and snow due to limited staffing, said Komonoski. That is expected to change as city administrators have recently been trained.
The City tries to clean all areas within 24 hours.
“There are often areas where windrows and narrowed road right of ways may persists for days after a major event, or on weekends,” said Komonoski.
In December, 80 cm of snow fell, costing $230,531 to remove.
That amount nearly doubled in January, when 158 cm fell, costing $586,191. The numbers for February will be available sometime mid-March.
Komonoski said that the higher cost in January was likely due to the “distribution of snowfalls across the month. Larger events, while often more difficult for travel, are generally less costly to clean up.
“How much snow falls on the streets is outside of our control,” said Komonoski.
But the department keeps track of the cost and resources and can bring to City Council any recommendations to use reserve funds. Council can access a Financial Stabilization Fund, which had $940,000 at the start of 2017.
The current snow removal budget is around $1.2 million with a sanding budget of $128,500.