New policy maintains service levels of the previous policy – contractors will now be charged to use snow dump
by Colin Smith
Morinville has a new policy for the control of snow and ice on its roads and walkways, but residents will see little change in service levels.
The new Snow and Ice Control Policy was adopted by council at its regular meeting Tuesday, following a prolonged review of the existing policy.
As was the case last year, residential clearing will be triggered when snow accumulates to a depth of 15 centimetres, with a five-day target to have the roads cleared.
At the average of two snow clearing operations per season, the estimated 2022-23 cost is $275,000.
This result came despite a last-minute attempt by Councillor Stephen Dafoe to have the snow clearance threshold dropped to a 12-centimetre accumulation.
He proposed an amendment to a motion to approve the Snow and Ice Clearance Policy.
Dafoe’s move followed a presentation by the administration of information about snow clearance triggers in other municipalities and the budget implications of adjusting the thresholds.
According to Infrastructure Services Manager Jordan Betteridge, Morinville is at about the median for the region, with Fort Saskatchewan at the low end at 7.5 centimetres and Spruce Grove on the high end at 22 centimetres.
Reducing the snow depth trigger to 12 centimetres would bump the average number of clearances per year to three, at an estimated additional cost of $75,000 to $100,000.
“I think in the long run with the potential of the extra clearing and a little sooner trigger for the snow clearing we remove some of the potential for the freeze-thaw and the accumulation of ice,” said Dafoe. “And that has to be far harder on our equipment than snow.”
He added, “I’d like to up the standard. The policy is shifting to us as the council from administration and I think a little higher standard is called for.”
Councillor Jenn Anheliger expressed a worry that if the standard was increased there could still be a bad winter resulting in even more calls on the town’s resources.
“I think we need to keep it where it is,” she said. “Not only do we increase the budget line on a yearly basis, I don’t know that it mitigates the potential for that freeze-thaw cycle.”
Anheliger also pointed to the recent Morinville resident survey.
“The majority were fine with maintaining service levels,” she said. “Balancing the cost to residents, I think it would be substantial for three centimetres.”
The amendment was defeated in a four-three vote, with Dafoe, Councillor Rebecca Balanko and Councillor Scott Richardson in favour, and Mayor Simon Boersma, Deputy Mayor Ray White and Councillors Anheliger and Maurice St. Denis opposed.
One policy change that will affect some residents is that snow-removal contractors will now be charged for use of Morinville’s snow dump at $25 per tandem load.
Businesses and condominiums that contract for snow removal will now face that additional cost.
This is a new cost recovery model being phased in over three years to allow businesses and contractors to adjust their own pricing.
Another major change is that this is now a council policy rather than an administrative policy as it was previously.
That reflects a recent Supreme Court of Canada decision holding the City of Nelson, B.C. liable for damages in the case of an injury related to its snow clearing policy.
An implication of the decision is the policy needs to be a council policy since snow and ice control service levels have a very high focus on public safety.
New clauses in the policy clarify the town’s service levels.
The regular hours for snow clearing are set at 6 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Monday through Friday, with holidays and weekends monitored by on-call staff.
If snow removal levels cannot be managed by town staff, such as after an extreme winter storm, removal hours may be extended or contractors hired to assist.
Windrows will be used within streets in preparation for the removal of the cleared snow. The target for windrow removal is three days.
Road boulevards or medians may be used for snow storage.
Updating the snow and ice control policy has been underway since March, following a challenging 2021/2022 winter season that saw multiple major snowfalls, multi-day snow events, several freezing rain episodes, and a long stretch of extreme cold temperatures.