Council considers costs for increased snow clearing

Lacombe City Council accepted for information a report from administration Jan. 13 discussing the estimated costs to change the current practice of windrowing snow on most city roads to hauling it off-site where feasible.

“The proposed changes are significant; however, Council is looking to strike the right balance between costs and service,” said Mayor Grant Creasey. “I see this as a great start to something that can have a number of positive impacts on the community, and look forward to hearing from residents as we discuss this issue further.”

The city’s Snow Clearing Policy directly affects snow clearing and sanding service levels for roads.

Of the 97 kilometres of roads included in the city’s snow clearing operations, snow on 14 kilometres is currently hauled away. The city supplements its current staff and fleet with contracted services to remove the snow.  

For about 30 kilometres of roads, there is sufficient room to windrow snow onto adjacent ditches or open space, so it is proposed the practice of windrowing snow at these locations continue. This leaves 53 kilometres of additional road from which to remove snow.

The costs to change current practice will have an impact on the City’s budgets. The Roads Department estimates an increase of $73,600 is required, primarily for additional contracted services.

Should council elect to proceed with the proposed service level changes, administration has recommended council’s 2020/2021 snow clearing budget include a 20 per cent contingency, on top of the new calculated costs for a total recommended budget of $202,600.

The potential service level change to snow clearing operations, combined with the need to follow Alberta Environment and Parks recommendations, and the construction of the new Infrastructure Services Facility, are major factors for the relocation of municipal snow dump sites.

The city’s current snow dumpsite is located on a four-hectare (10-acre) industrial lot in Phase 2 of the Len Thompson Industrial Park. The Roads Department also uses the road allowance west of 126 Woodland Drive as a satellite location to stockpile snow during residential snow clearing operations.

The current sites will not be able to accommodate the anticipated three-to-four times more snow volume hauled off city roads, so a new snow dump site that adheres to current standards will have to be constructed. Converting a portion of the city’s decommissioned lagoons to a long-term snow dump site at a capital cost $500,000 is considered to be economically advantageous.

“Re-purposing a section of the lagoon for a long-term snow dump will allow the City to control the rate of snowmelt discharges into Wolf Creek, and minimize any safety and environmental impacts to help protect the watershed,” said Chief Administrative Officer Matthew Goudy. “It would enhance operations to conform to current regulations, and allow us to meet future operational needs in an environmentally responsible manner.”

-City of Lacombe photo