With a lack of serious snow events so far this winter —the city did receive a few centimetres of the white stuff on Saturday, Dec. 28 — Kamlooops' $1.9-million annual budget to remove the fluffy white stuff was under by about $550,000 midway through December. The budget runs on the calendar year, from January through December.
“As I’ve said every year, really, it’s more about our service levels than it is about budget,” City of Kamloops streets manager Glen Farrow said. “If it snows a lot and we have really nasty, ugly, icy conditions, we’re applying more material, we’re sending out more equipment and we will exceed that budget every time.”
The city has a $100,000 budget to pay contractors to remove snow in the downtown core following heavy snowfall.
“We haven’t had to do that this year, so there’s $100,000 right there,” Farrow said.
The city increased its snow removal budget by $300,000 in the past year. Asked how the city can justify that increase, given the current state of the budget, Farrow said: “It all depends on what comes our way. If it doesn’t snow whatsoever, we’re going to be under budget every year.”
The city’s streets staff remain busy, regardless of whether it snows.
Last December, when it did not snow significantly until about Christmas, the city’s streets crew cleaned up turf along Fortune Drive, which had been growing over top of sidewalks.
“People always ask us, I’ve got 30 staff, it’s not snowing, ‘What are they doing?’ We’re hauling material, doing projects like that. We actually painted a lot of internal buildings. We keep the staff working,” Farrow said.
Last month, the city’s civic-ops committee endorsed support for staff to explore further efficiencies, including investigating on-street parking restrictions to streamline snow clearing. A report to the committee stated that seasonal parking restrictions would ideally be put in place across the entire community, especially after the city passed a bylaw that allows secondary suites in more areas.
However, such rules would be difficult to enforce. On-street parking restrictions in place during spring street sweeping pose challenges, Farrow explained, with some people not moving their vehicles. In such cases, the city tows vehicles and residents eventually end up calling the RCMP, wondering where their vehicle has ended up.
Typically, it is towed around the corner, out of the way of city street-sweeping vehicles.
“Even in a small situation like that, there’s challenges,” Farrow said.
Coun. Bill Sarai expressed concern about city snow clearing leading to iced over driveways in cul-de-sacs. The city has some 434 cul-de-sacs and the city’s civic operations director, Jen Fretz, said that staff are bound by service levels, which are mandated by council.