Column: Snow clearing a big job in Salmon Arm

Council Report/Mayor Alan Harrison

Snow removal in our city is a big job!

We are constantly reviewing our snow clearing processes, to try to make our efforts the very best for the residents of Salmon Arm.

There are 250 kilometres of local roads in Salmon Arm. With single-lane plowing and sanding, this is 500 km that we service each snowfall. We have 12 staff on shift to complete this work. The city equipment includes a grader, a large loader, two backhoes, one tandem, two large single-axle trucks with front plows and sanders, as well as several smaller trucks with plows.

There are 21 snow- plow and sanding routes. These are prioritized. Early routes include main arterial roads such as 30th Street, Okanagan, Lakeshore, 20th Street, Auto Road, etc.

The downtown business district is also a high priority. Main collector roads are next, followed by residential streets. Our snow-clearing machines are equipped with GPS tracking technology, so we know what has been cleared and when.

The city subscribes to an hourly weather forecast system to assist with the planning for major storm events. These weather updates help inform us when to pre-wet roads that have steep grades with magnesium chloride, which helps prevent the snow from compacting on the road surface.

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Salmon Arm is one of the few communities that clears sidewalks outside the business area. Most communities have a “Good Neighbour bylaw,” that requires residents to clear the sidewalk in front of their house. Historically, the city has cleared all sidewalks in Salmon Arm. This makes sense for several reasons: 1. We have areas with large lots fronting sidewalks, so it would be a big job to shovel. 2. We live on a hillside, so sidewalks get slick. 3. Our population demographic is older, so this would be challenging for some residents. 4. We have a long winter and we want residents to be able to walk. 5. Those who use scooters to get around need to be able to get to where they want to go.

With 50 kilometres of sidewalks, keeping these clear is challenging. We have two trackless units and a skid steer to do this work. We also have a shovel crew to help clear areas like let-downs, stairs and hard-to-get-at spots. The city has six crew persons who work on sidewalks.

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We know we are not perfect at clearing sidewalks, but we do our very best.

We hire a contract crew to assist with the downtown clean- out. To remove the snow from the downtown, the cost is about $10,000 for each significant snowfall.

Other areas where we need to clear snow include parking lots of city-owned facilities like Shaw Centre and SASCU Recreation Centre. In addition, clearing snow at the airport has to be completed to a high standard so air traffic can land and take off safely.

The city spends almost $1 million clearing snow every year. We keep a snowfall reserve available, as some years are heavier than others.

Residents can help our crews by not parking or piling snow on the street. Next time you see our crew out plowing, give them a wave – they are working hard to keep our streets and sidewalks safe!


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