Salmon Arm is on the cusp of needing more staff and equipment for snow clearing, but can manage for now.
In discussions on Dec. 12 of the city’s recently updated Snow and Ice Control Policy, city council was advised snow clearing staff are currently scheduled from 5 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Monday through Friday. One staff person is on standby on the weekends. If there is a need for snow removal, that person can call in additional staff, on overtime.
Rob Niewenhuizen, director of engineering and public works, said more staff will be needed as the city’s road network expands.
“With the additional roads we’re getting with the west end, the TCH (Trans-Canada Highway) West project, we’re getting to the point where we need to increase that staffing level.”
He said the city negotiated with the transportation ministry, which has dedicated a piece of land near the roundabouts where city equipment and sand can be stored. It would save city crews from having to drive from the public works yard next to Little Mountain fields.
Coun. Debbie Cannon asked about weekend staffing.
Niewenhuizen said if more staff are hired with the additional roads, and shifts can be balanced over the weekend, they will be. Currently there aren’t enough staff or equipment to run a seven-day schedule, only morning and evening shifts for five days.
He said the city tried one year to do a seven-day shift, using three instead of four staff, but it was problematic.
“We had holidays and sicknesses, and it really became an issue. It’s very difficult.”
Cannon asked about contracting out.
“Contracting out is not preferred obviously by the union; we would only look at that in extreme conditions. Back in 2017 when we had three feet of snow in one day; we actually called out contracts to assist us because our crews were working extended hours,” Niewenhuizen said.
Road priorities are: 1) collector and arterial roads, 2) the central business district and 3) local and rural roads.
Regarding sidewalks, Niewenhuizen noted additional funds had been put in the 2022 budget for sidewalk clearing on weekends, calculated as overtime. He said over the previous weekend – Dec. 10/11 – staff spent about six hours clearing Saturday, which amounted to about $4,000 for the whole day.
“It definitely helps; if that snow had been left over the weekend it would have been turned into an ice pile.”
He said the snow policy has been updated mainly in the areas of definitions and wording, as well as what triggers snow clearing in terms of snow depth. For instance, for first priority roads – collector and arterial roads, one inch (2.5 centimetres) of snow can trigger sanding of intersections and roads with steep grades. Plowing and sanding takes place with three inches (7.5 cm).
Coun. Sylvia Lindgren asked if the city has a policy requiring residents to shovel the sidewalks in front of their property. Niewenhuizen said no. Many other communities have a good neighbour policy, he said, but the city has done sidewalks for years. He said as the number of sidewalks grows, it may be something to consider.
He said parks staff do the sidewalk shovelling and clearing, which provides them year-round employment.
She also asked about build-up of snow on the edges of roads, in terms of cyclists.
Niewenhuizen said it depends on the road, because staff aren’t going to do four passes on a road until they’re caught up.
Mayor Alan Harrison said he appreciates the job staff are doing. He said he used to get more calls about roads and the previous weekend he received only two – both about the highway, which is not the city’s responsibility.
The city policy underwent a legal review by the city’s insurance risk management committee, a law firm and the Municipal Insurance Association of British Columbia.
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